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The Currie Cup has become a hard sell

Just a few years ago one couldn't find space to squeeze a mouse into a Currie Cup semi-final between bitter rivals the Blue Bulls and Western Province at what has now fondly become known as Fortress Loftus.

Currie Cup logo

Sadly in 2016, the Currie Cup appears to have become a hard sell and just over 11 and a half thousand tickets had been sold just more than 48 hours before the kick-off.

 

A chart presented to the media on Thursday indicated a massive decline in average attendance across the board in all competitions, including Super Rugby.

 

The biggest Currie Cup crowd at Loftus this season was the Blue Bulls-Golden Lions cross Jukskei derby, which attracted just 7896 fans.

 

With a 50 000 capacity, there is no sadder sight than a near-empty Loftus Versveld when the Blue Bulls, or any team for that matter, are in action.

 

The Currie Cup this season has seen some really attractive, enterprising rugby played and yet the fans have still stayed away.

 

With the absence of Springbok players, it has also unearthed a plethora of young, exciting talent as a new generation of players emerge who could be considered to be future Boks.


ALSO READ: Full Currie Cup semi-final preview

 

Names like Curwin Bosch, Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Malcolm Marx, Seabelo Senatla, RG Snyman -- all SA Rugby Young Player of the Year nominees -- immediately spring to mind, while the Free State Cheetahs nursery has also produced some impressive players as the Bloemfontein side remained unbeaten in their preliminary campaign.

 

Closer to home, the Blue Bulls Company have good reason to feel a bit miffed at the fixture list drawn up by the powers that be at SA Rugby.

 

With traffic factors and building operations in the Loftus precinct, parking issues and a whole lot of other factors being accounted for, there have been challenges for the fans. Not to mention the amount of late and inconvenient Friday afternoon kick-off times allocated to Loftus.

 

In fact, Blue Bulls CEO Barend van Graan had no issues this week stating that he feared the company would take a financial loss on Saturday's plumb north-south semi-final.

 

Yes, rugby lovers are also feeling the economic pinch. But in my humble opinion, ticket prices for the semi-final which range from R20 for children behind the north and south poles, to a strategic halfway line Grand Stand seat at R280, are very reasonable, if not cheaper when matched against world standards.

 

But one can't help feeling that the apathy extends to the blanket negativity surrounding South African rugby at present, the ease and convenience of watching the action from the comfort of an armchair and the parlous state that the Springboks are in.

 

Those factors all considered, it would seem that the consequences are inevitable, but I am convinced it is not only the Blue Bulls Company that are feeling the pinch.

 

A three week break in the Currie Cup programme to accommodate the Rugby Championship matches and the sudden re-scheduling of the semi-finals and finals, also didn't do the cause any good.


It's a break Blue Bulls head coach Nollis Marais conceded may have been just a bit too long

Saddle up nevertheless for two potentially great semi-finals on Saturday as the final scramble mounts for a place in the 2016 Currie Cup Final.


 


The bookies are leaning towards a Cheetahs-Blue Bulls final next week in Bloemfontein, but one cannot write off the Golden Lions or Western Province potentially turning the tables on their opponents in what amounts to a once-off scramble.


 


Blue Bulls coach Nollis Marais knows better than anyone what a Currie Cup trophy in the Loftus cabinet would mean to the fans after a lengthy seven-year drought.


Gone are the Victor Matfield's, Bakkies Botha's, Morne Steyn's, Pierre Spies's, Danie Rossouw's and a whole host of other dependable stalwarts.


Coach Marais has been tasked with building a new generation of players to proudly don the famous blue jersey with the Barberton Daisy on the chest.


But, Marais also knows all too well one can never write off Province, who are a vastly different side to that which went down 26-45 to the Light Blues earlier in the season.

The Capetonians have found a way in the back door with a late surge and with the addition of some of their Bok campaigners, could prove to be dangerous customers.


Based on form and momentum, the unbeaten Cheetahs have to be favoured to overcome the Lions, who have lost the vast majority of their 2015 Currie Cup-winning squad to Japanese club commitments and Springbok call-up's this term. Much like Marais last season, Lions mentor Johan Ackermann has also found himself in a rebuilding phase.


LONG LIVE THE CURRIE CUP!


Final permutations:


 Blue Bulls beat WP and Cheetahs beat Golden Lions -- Final will be in Bloemfontein


WP beat Blue Bulls and Golden Lions beat Cheetahs -- Final will be at Newlands


Blue Bulls beat WP and Golden Lions beat Cheetahs -- Final will be at Loftus Versveld

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