How belt-tightening has impacted the Currie Cup
Once the most prestigious and revered tournament on the domestic scene‚ the Currie Cup kicks off on Thursday with teams under increasing strain to meet their commitments.
The competition‚ without an anchor benefactor‚ has lost much of its gloss over the last few seasons with prospective sponsors struggling to find bang for their buck in a largely Bokless tournament.
Although SA Rugby stumps up a travel allowance for teams‚ some unions are having to ask some harsh questions in the wake of the financial squeeze.
“That is our reality. We either have to cut teams or collectively get poorer until all of us are in our m...‚” said one union chief who did not want to be named.
“Our u19 travel allowance was slashed by R100 000 this year.
"You have to decide‚ do you take the bus or do you fly?
"There is nothing wrong with taking the bus but in some cases it does make for a lengthy journey.”
The Sharks‚ for instance‚ will board their team bus after their Currie Cup opener against the Free State Cheetahs on Friday for a seven-hour return journey back to Durban.
“It isn't a secret that SA Rugby has slashed travel and those sorts of things‚” said the provincial chief.
“You basically have to decide if you are going to have three sides - seniors‚ u21 and u19 or if you are going to cut your high performance activities.
"Those budgets have been slashed.”
Apart from logistical challenges‚ belt tightening has impacted on-field matters.
“Lets use a practical rugby example.
"Last year in the Currie Cup we could only select 22 players in our match squads.
"They didn't have funding for a 23rd player as is the case in major competitions around the world.
“Now you get an uncontested scrum‚ you have to take one player off‚ your rhythm gets broken. It brings inconsistency.
“You can't replace like for like and you have to have one prop that can play both sides.
“It doesn't make rugby high performance sense. It definitely affects the quality of your game.”
Another rugby boss‚ Harold Verster‚ says while there is less money unions can spend their travel allowance in which ever way they see fit.
“If they have to travel greater distances teams are free to fly.
"They can take up to 28 people trip and that includes coaches and medics.
"What has increasingly happened is that teams tend to use buses and vans.”
He said he found playing with a match squad of 22 players “a little odd”‚ but was confident SA Rugby would review the matter.