The Currie Cup will return to “normal” this year with South Africa’s 14 provincial unions contesting the Premier and First Divisions, SA Rugby confirmed on Thursday.
The governing body announced the competitions’ structure for the remainder of 2021, along with other plans for the forthcoming season amid ongoing uncertainties caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Currie Cup Premier Division will again feature seven teams over a double round of action, with a number of midweek games scheduled, while the First Division, also consisting of seven teams, returns to the local rugby calendar after being cancelled last year.
Both Currie Cup competitions are scheduled to kick off on the weekend of 18/19 June.
The Currie Cup Premier Division will see the Bulls defend their title against the Sharks, Western Province, Lions, Cheetahs, Pumas and Griquas.
The top four teams on the log at the end of the league phase will qualify for the semi-finals, followed by the final on Saturday, 11 September.
In the opening round, the Lions travel to Nelspruit to face the Pumas, the Griquas and the Sharks clash in Kimberley, and the Bulls host Western Province in a North/South derby in Pretoria. The Cheetahs have a bye.
Boland, Border, Eastern Province, Griffons, Leopards, South Western Districts Eagles and Valke will take each other on over a single round in the Currie Cup First Division, which will culminate with the final on 14 August.
In the first round, Eastern Province take on the Leopards, SWD face the Valke and Border start with a tough match against the Griffons, while the Boland Kavaliers have a bye.
Other tournaments scheduled to take place are two Under-20 series, with the provinces competing in the Cup and Shield competitions, and Women’s First Division, which is scheduled to start on Saturday 12 June.
The U20 Cup competition played over a single round of matches starting on 7 August will be contested by the Bulls, Cheetahs, Eastern Province, Leopards, Lions, Sharks and Western Province, with the final scheduled for 2 October.
The Griquas, Pumas, Griffons, Valke, Border, SWD, Boland and Limpopo will play for the U20 Shield, split up in two pools over a single round, starting on 28 August, concluding with the final on 25 September.
Plans to host the SA Rugby Youth Weeks are also in the pipeline and will be announced in due course.