Using Match Attractiveness Measures to Evaluate the Structure of the Currie Cup
Recent remarks in the media suggest that the Currie Cup competition, the premier rugby union competition in South Africa, is in need of a revamp. This is not a new inclination; the structure of the Currie Cup has had numerous alterations over the preceding two decades. But why has the Currie Cup suddenly lost its glamour? Existing measures of competitive balance used in the economics of sports literature are found to be unsatisfactory for rugby union competitions. Using a new measure of match attractiveness, this paper shows that the existing Currie Cup performs poorly compared to the top rugby union competitions across the world. 21 years of Currie Cup rugby are assessed to determine which structure yields the most attractive rugby. It is found that it is not the number of matches or the format of the competition that determines the “attractiveness”, but rather how many teams participate. A structure where only the five Super 14 franchises compete yields the most attractive outcomes. Yet, even a competition of “five plus one” will be relatively more attractive than most current rugby union competitions, while also contributing to broadening participation and representation in South African rugby. A format is proposed where the five Super 14 franchises and one team open to promotion/relegation compete. The existing Vodacom Cup excluding the five Super 14-unions can be used as qualification tournament for the sixth team. Promotion for the sixth team should be determined on the highest league log points at the end of the tournament (Vodacom Cup) and not in a play-off match.
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