Former WP hooker Sidney Tobias has been asked to prepare for the Currie Cup with the Bulls. (Photo by Ashley Vlotman / Gallo Images)
- Local franchises have been granted a small reprieve to deal with their depth issues in the upcoming Currie Cup by being allowed to temporarily have a group of 50 senior players.
- The Bulls and Sharks are particularly in trouble given their chances of reaching the Rainbow Cup final.
- But that measure might not be enough, and franchises will likely have to dig through their club ranks as well.
The South African PRO16 franchises have scored a small victory in their fight to tackle depth issues in the upcoming Currie Cup.
The Bulls and Sharks in particular have raised concerns about how they would face a double-round domestic competition given the lineup for the British & Irish Lions tour as well as future engagements from Springbok.
Sport24 understands that following discussions among relevant stakeholders, teams are allowed to temporarily increase their maximum number from 45 senior players to 50.
The Bulls are primarily concerned about the possibility of playing the Rainbow Cup final on June 19 in Italy the same weekend as the Currie Cup starts.
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That would require having 46 players available to fill the two respective match teams, with their four Springboks – Duane Vermeulen, Marco van Staden, Trevor Nyakane and Morne Steyn – unavailable.
In addition, there is also the challenge of having to temporarily remove around 26 players from the local system to fulfill the mandatory 10-day hard bio-bubble requirement before playing a touring match against the Lions.
The Sharks, who can also clinch a spot in the North-South final, would be in even more of a hurry as they have no less than nine players on the Springbok squad.
While the Durbanites have a bit of leeway as a few of their contracted players are players of national interest – who don’t count towards the 45-man selection – and are, according to Report, eyeing moves for Bongi Mbonambi, Lionel Cronje, Lourens Adriaanse, Tinotenda Mavesere and Etiennie Janeke.
But they would still be stretched to fill multiple squads.
Returning to Loftus, the Bulls will use their vibrant rugby club scene to fill some of their gaps.
Since local contract regulations prevent unions from making offers to players for less than a year, inviting club players is a smart and necessary move.
A prominent Bulls official confirmed on Saturday that eight mainstays of the club will join the franchise’s preparations for the Currie Cup.
Hooker Sidney Tobias, son of former Bok Errol pivot, has been confirmed as one of the participants.
Several other former top-class players are currently performing with distinction on the Pretoria club circuit, such as former Kings winger Andell Loubser, Junior Springbok Vaughen Isaacs and speedster Kefense Mahlo.
Seasoned mainstay Hencus van Wyk is also back from Japan and turned out for the Naka Bulls before securing a short-term contract from the Cheetahs.