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Namibia included as SARU expands historic Currie Cup

The South African Rugby Union (SARU) has confirmed that the 2016 edition of its Currie Cup domestic competition will be expanded to include the Namibian national team.

Namibia will join the 14 South African provincial unions in next year’s Currie Cup, which was first staged in 1889 and is the world’s oldest domestic rugby championship. In addition, the 2016 Currie Cup will feature more games than any previous edition of the competition. A total of 166 matches will be played, compared to 76 in 2015, with each team facing one another in the first stage of the tournament, which will run from April 9 to July 23.

Super Rugby teams will move on to the Premier Division along with the three non-franchise teams that have the greatest number of log points, while the remaining six teams will contest the First Division. Second-stage competitions will also be played over a single round, but points will not be carried over from the opening stage.

The Premier Division will feature a quarter-final round, while the First Division will only have semi-finals. The final for both leagues will be staged at the home venue of whichever of the two teams placed highest in the second phase.

“The enthusiasm for the Currie Cup remains intense among our members and the new format was driven by their desire to see all teams playing each other once again,” SARU chief executive Jurie Roux said.

“That stage will run in parallel to Super Rugby with the second stage of the Currie Cup only kicking off at the conclusion of the Super Rugby log stage. The Vodacom Cup competition has been discontinued to create the space in the calendar.”

Roux also confirmed that the new formats have been agreed for the under-19 and under-21 competitions for the six Super Rugby teams and First Division team Leopards, with non-Super Rugby teams only contesting an Under-20 competition.

“The Currie Cup will kick off earlier than for many years and will feature more matches than ever and we hope that the heritage of the trophy will fire the passion of supporters once more,” Roux said. “We have also retained the intensity of the contest for the trophy with the Premier Division and First Division competitions in the second stage and I am sure the battle for places in the top division will be intense.”

Namibia has played in five Rugby World Cups but failed to win any of its 19 matches at the sport’s global showpiece.