Sat, 16 Jan 2021

Springbok captain and Rugby World Cup winner Siya Kolisi hopes to break a personal domestic trophy drought by leading Western Province to the Currie Cup title this season.

The seven-team competition, encompassing a single round, semi-finals and a final, kicks off on Friday in Durban, where the Sharks host the Pumas.

On Saturday, Griquas face the Lions in Kimberley before the first round highlight pits Western Province against the Blue Bulls, winners of the just completed Super Rugby Unlocked, in Cape Town.

Ordinarily, Kolisi would lead Province out at soon-to-be-demolished Newlands stadium, but a hamstring injury sustained during Super Rugby Unlocked may delay his return.

Since rugby turned professional at the start of 1996, the Currie Cup has suffered from fixture congestion, with stars on Springbok duty in the Rugby Championship and Europe while the domestic competition carries on.

After a long shutdown this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, South Africa opted out of the Rugby Championship in Australia, leaving the best local players available for the Currie Cup.

Of the 33 players involved in the triumphant 2019 World Cup campaign, 16 are based in South Africa, 14 in Europe or Japan, and Schalk Brits, Francois Louw and Tendai 'The Beast' Mtawarira have retired.

Kolisi's fellow Western Province loose forward Pieter-Steph du Toit is recovering from an injury so serious at one stage that doctors feared they might have to amputate a leg.

'Province jersey special'

"I have never won a trophy as a Western Province player and I am looking forward to giving my all in the belief that we can win the Currie Cup," said Kolisi.

"Because of Springbok training camps and Tests, I have not played very often for Western Province down the years, perhaps 30 times.

"Putting on the Province jersey is special to me because it was the Currie Cup that made it possible for me to break into top-level rugby.

"The Currie Cup offers a chance to test yourself against the best rugby players in South Africa. The competition offered me an opportunity and I grabbed it with both hands.

"I believe the Currie Cup will be a good barometer of where South African rugby is after the coronavirus shutdown, with the (British and Irish) Lions series coming next year."

Western Province (34 titles) and the Bulls (23) are the most successful teams in the Currie Cup, which was first staged in 1892 and the oldest domestic rugby competition in the world.

The Bulls used home advantage to embarrass the Stormers 39-6 in Super Rugby Unlocked and the scoreline could have been even more one-sided as a storm forced play to be abandoned after 63 minutes played.

Dominant at their Pretoria base since rugby resumed in October, the Jake White-coached Bulls have been less impressive on the road, losing to the Cheetahs and edging the Lions.

White has built a team that boasted a five win-one loss Super Rugby Unlocked record around two Springbok veterans, flyhalf Morne Steyn, 36, and loose forward Duane Vermeulen, 34.

Source: News24

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