Provincial coaches and referees were united in their desire to ensure that negative play is eradicated from the Absa Currie Cup this season, following a workshop in Johannesburg on Wednesday. All 14 unions – represented by 12 head coaches and two assistant coaches – agreed on the key issues on which they would all be focusing this season to ensure that rugby’s oldest domestic championship lives up to its traditions. “We talked about all the big ticket items such as the tackle, maul and scrums and what the Law says, but one thing that came through very strongly was that we were all aligned in the desire to get rid of negative play. By that I mean the ‘off-the-ball’ stuff such as throwing the ball away, jersey pulling and something that has been a big concern in Vodacom Super Rugby, obstruction at and around the breakdown. There was total buy-in from all parties on that approach to the extent that the coaches would like to see players being yellow carded for negative play. There are no new interpretations: it’s very clear in Law what the players have to do and what the referees have to do. We will simply be applying the Laws,” said Andre Watson, SARU GM Referees.
The SARU initiative was welcomed by coaches. “This is a very important workshop with the main aim of aligning referees and coaches on what we want to see on the field. We haven’t done anything like before and it’s a great start. Obviously coaches have frustrations and referees have frustrations and we’ve been able to share them and agree on the type of picture that we’d like to see on the field so that we have a good product for the fans and the players. The main thing we want is a fair contest in all departments and not one that is decided by illegal play – that’s cheating and we don’t want it,” said Allister Coetzee, coach of DHL Western Province (and the Stormers). Cell C Sharks coach Brad McLeod-Henderson said, “It’s a great opportunity for referees and coaches to get a good understanding of how the Laws should be blown. We know how the refs will see the game and understand the areas that we all believe there should be a clamp down on.”
The Currie Cup qualifying tournament kicks off on 7 June. The six bottom placed teams in last year’s First Division and the relegated GWK Griquas will play a single-round competition on a log basis. The team that tops the log will join the Sharks, Western Province, Toyota Free State, Blue Bulls, Golden Lions, Pumas and EP Kings in the Premier Division which kicks off on 8 August.
The Currie Cup final is on 25 October.