South African rugby fans have been treated to a blockbuster season in the world’s oldest rugby tournament, once again. After the final round of group stage matches, the Blue Bulls sit atop the lot, despite a shock 44-14 defeat to the Pumas, and have booked their place in the semifinals of this year’s competition. Joining them in the knockout stage are the Western Province, the Sharks and Golden Lions, with the reigning champions Cheetahs missing out this time around.
Throughout this year’s Currie Cup -season, players have had to deal with their new circumstances, especially playing without fans. Griquas lock, Sibabalo Qoma, believes that the players have been dealing with it very well, “Honestly, we have gotten used to it. The atmosphere brought by fans can never be replaced so we have to bring our own spirit to our games!” the 23-year-old said enthusiastically. The Griquas have shown moments of excellence and great potential this season, but unfortunately end their campaign without a win, after narrowly losing 18-22 to the Cheetahs in the final round of matches.
This season, with its unique nature, has allowed younger players to make their mark on the game and stake their claims to first team positions and big game starting opportunities, “I think with there being COVID outbreaks and injuries, it does present an opportunity for young players to showcase what they’ve got,” said Qoma.
Not only has the season been a challenge for players on the field, but also off of it. Getting into a new routine isn’t easy for anyone, let alone a seasoned professional sportsman. Match day routines have been affected and so has training, as Qoma explains, “[Training has been] tremendously different. We get screened every day and we test every week. On the days where we may have training but our COVID results have not yet returned, it is even more important to train with masks on. Masks on at all times.”
With the knockout stages to come, every South African rugby fan will be excited to see who lifts the trophy at the end of the 2020 edition of this historic tournament. The players are also grateful to have been able to play, after doubts at the start of the season over whether or not it was actually going to happen. “It’s certainly a great competition to play in,” said Qoma, while reminiscing about his season.
The Western Province play the Sharks in the next round, while the Bulls take on fierce rivals, the Golden Lions with hopes of reaching the final as they have done so frequently throughout their history. Both matches will be played on the 23rd of this month, and are not to be missed.