New player welfare model confirms Carling Currie Cup kick-off

rugby11 June 2024 13:50| © SuperSport
article image
Carling Currie Cup © Gallo Images

The Carling Currie Cup will kick off as scheduled, as one of the results of a ground-breaking alignment between employers and players to maximise player welfare, while facilitating a 12 month-long South African season.

The new deal – which is scheduled for final sign-off on Thursday – acknowledges that a compulsory, industry-wide eight-week shutdown is impossible to accommodate in a South African playing calendar that straddles the hemispheres (the international franchises play through the SA summer in the nine month-long Vodacom Untied Rugby Championship, while the Springbok test season and domestic competitions are rooted in the SA winter).

The South African Rugby Employers’ Organisation (SAREO) and MyPlayers (the professional rugby players’ organisation) have agreed that accepting a 12-month season – while embedding player welfare strategies – was the optimal way to address an internationally unique match-scheduling challenge.

The agreement was brokered following arbitration of a dispute relating to mandatory rest periods for players. The arbitrator ruled that the players’ terms and conditions of employment required all contracted players to rest simultaneously for eight weeks. He also ruled that such rest periods were not contracted to take place within each 12-month cycle.

The new deal instead provides for:

Structured, individualised eight-week rest periods for all players with formal notice periods when such breaks are to be taken;

Adoption of World Rugby player load guidelines which are in finalisation;

Maintenance of a strict, individual player load monitoring programme;

Broadened scope for the Joint Committee on Contracted Players’ Safety and Welfare and utilisation of the Emergency Committee to ensure effective implementation of the new arrangements and;

Adjusted travel arrangements for Vodacom URC/EPCR teams from 1 July 2025.

The original award cast doubt on the possibility of accommodating the Carling Currie Cup in the current season so as not to overlap with the Vodacom United Rugby Championship.

However, the Carling Currie Cup Premier Division will kick off as scheduled in the first weekend of July (in a revamped format agreed by the General Council in December), while the First Division will spring into action this weekend with three matches scheduled for Saturday.

“This has been a very fruitful process, and the outcome is that we have collectively faced up to the realities of our post-Covid calendar and come up with a solution for a problem unlike any other sport that I am aware of,” said Rian Oberholzer, CEO of SA Rugby.

“Every sport, everywhere has an off-season, but we have found a way to balance the equation of maintaining our competition schedule to drive revenues for 12 months of the year, while securing player welfare. We might have had to go through an arbitration to help concentrate minds, but the result is a good one.


“The importance of player welfare was never in doubt. The challenge was to find ways to accommodate all needs. I’d like to thank MyPlayers and SAREO for constructively working their way towards this solution.”

Mandisi Tshonti, GM: Player Affairs of MyPlayers said: “This agreement revolutionises the South African playing calendar as it makes provision for non-stop professional rugby.

“It ensures the commercial engine can keep delivering, by giving broadcasters and sponsors an optimal opportunity to partner with SA Rugby and the competing unions, while player welfare has been enhanced.”

The Premier Division of the Carling Currie Cup kicks off on the weekend of 5/6 July and will reach its climax with the final on 21 September. In an exciting new feature, the competition will be staged over one-and-a-half rounds, followed by two semifinals and the grand finale.

The eight teams are divided into two pools of four each by virtue of last year’s standings. Pool A will consist of the Toyota Cheetahs (No 1 ranked last year), the Vodacom Bulls (4), DHL Western Province (5) and the NovaVit Griffons (8).

Pool B sees the Hollywoodbets Sharks (ranked No 2), Airlink Pumas (3), Fidelity ADT Lions (6) and Suzuki Griquas (7) grouped together. Teams will play home and away matches within their respective pools plus a single round of games against sides in the opposite pool.

The two top-ranked teams in each pool will progress to the semifinals on 14 September, with the two winners set to battle it out for the famous Currie Cup in the 21 September final.

Meanwhile, the remaining six provincial sides – the Sanlam Boland Kavaliers, Valke, Leopards, Phangela SWD Eagles, Eastern Province and Border – will compete against each other in the Carling Currie Cup First Division, with five rounds of league games scheduled. The opening round is this weekend, with semifinals scheduled for 20 July and the final for 27 July.