Currie Cup semifinals: Stats and facts
Tension does not abate this weekend as an exciting Currie Cup season goes into the semifinals and the unpredictable. We look at semifinals down the years, not that they have all that long a history.
The first Currie Cup tournament was in 1892, the first Final in 1939 and the first semifinal in 1969.
The Currie Cup was not in competition every year till 1969. It has been in competition 75 times and there have been semifinals 45 times – well over half the number of times the Currie Cup has been played. One of them had the strangest occurrence of them all.
Not that there is a lot of forecasting confidence in history in the case of semifinals.
The Blue Bulls have the best record of winning semifinals though they just scraped in this year.
Western Province have the second best record in semifinals and they are at home again this year. But then the last time they played the Blue Bulls in a semifinal, the Blue Bulls won on a late penalty for a late tackle.
The Sharks have a slightly better record than the Golden Lions, but of all Currie Cup sides the Lions have been playing the most delightful rugby this year.
Western Province and the Blue Bulls have met only twice in semifinals and on both occasions the men from Pretoria won.
The Golden Lions and the Sharks have met three times in semifinals, always in Durban. The Sharks won twice, the Golden Lions once.
This will be their first semifinal clash at Ellis Park.
Here are the appearances of the four teams in the 2014 semifinals:
Blue Bulls (a.k.a. Northern Transvaal): 16 semifinals – won 13
Western Province 20 semifinals – won 15
Golden Lions (a.k.a. Transvaal and Gauteng Lions): 17 semifinals – won 8
Sharks (a.k.a. Natal): 19 semifinals – won 10
The Currie Cup system was frequently the plaything of administrators and changed from year to year, as it keeps on doing.
The first Currie Cup Final was in 1939, the first semifinal in 1969 and what a dramatic match it was!
In the list of semifinals below, you will find years when there was just one semifinal. In those years the Currie Cup teams were divided into three sections which meant that two of the section winners had to play off for a place in the Final.
In 1973 there were four sections and so two semifinals.
In 1979 the 12 Currie Cup teams were divided into two sections. Section A was made up of strong teams, Section B of weaker teams but the best of the weaker teams played semifinals against the best of the Section A teams, with a remarkable result in 1984. In that year the Free State had already received their allocation of tickets for the Final and had to rush them to Durban on the Monday after Wynand Claassen's B Section Natal side had beaten them. That was the biggest semifinal upset.
In 1986 there were two sections, A and B, but only a single semifinal – between the second-placed side in the A section and the top of the B Section.
Then the semis were scrapped and 1 played 2 in the Final.
In 1996 the number of provinces was reduced to 14 and they all competed in two sections. This led to quarterfinals and then semifinals.
In 1998 there was a league system in which the top four teams qualified for the semifinals in which 1 played 4 and 2 played 3.
In 2003, the Rugby World Cup year, there were no semifinals.
In 2005 there were two sections and two semifinals. The top two teams in each section played each other in the semifinals.
In 2006, as now, the teams were divided in two sections but First Division, called the Currie Cup, had no chance at all of competing for the Currie Cup which suggests some kind of misnomer but instead the semifinals came from the Premier Division – 1 vs 4 and 2 vs 3.
There was a change in determining home venues. It used to go by age of provoince or previous matches between the two. It changed so that position on the log determined home venues as it would for the Final as well. That system continues in 2014.
That means this year that there are three possible venues for the Final.
If Western Province win, the final will be at Newlands.
If the Golden Lions win and Western Province lose, the Final will be in Johannesburg.
If the Western Province and the Golden Lions lose, the Final will be in Durban.
Only Pretoria is sure of not having a Currie Cup Final in 2014 – apart from Kimberley, Bloemfontein, Nelspruit and Port Elizabeth, that is.
The semifinals are often forgotten affairs swamped by the excitement of the Final that follows but the first one was one of the most memorable matches at Newlands since World War II.
That day Boland, captained by Dawie de Villiers were leading 11-3, after climbing into Western Province in the loose. The late Pietman Basson, Corné Krige's father-in-law, and Pierre Ackerman had scored tries, Ackerman's off an intercept followed by a thrilling 70-metre run.
The man who made the difference was the great, unique HO de Villiers, fullback for Western Province. He started running and it changed the game. He converted a try by Preston Robertson and then came into the line on the left of a scrum just inside Boland's half. He made an overlap for speedster Andy van der Watt who scored in the left corner. From touch, HO converted and the final whistle went. People charged onto the ground, as they were allowed to do in those friendly days, and swamped HO the Hero.
The biggest upset was in 1984 when Natal of the B Section beat the Free State of the A Section to make the Final at Newlands. Free State were all set for the Final. They dished out tickets – and then lost in Durban. There was a scramble for them to get the tickets together and off to Durban for Natal to use in a Final in which they gave a good account of themselves.
The strangest occurrence was the one in 2010 when the Blue Bulls played the Sharks. Not only did the Blue Bulls invade but so did a swarm of bees. The bees descended onto the field before the players did and the kick-off had to be delayed for 40 minutes while they were, smokily, encouraged to swarm off.
Semifinal matches and results
Western Province vs Boland 13-11 at Newlands
Northern Transvaal vs Natal, 24-8 in Durban
Transvaal vs Natal, 16-9 in Johannesburg
Northern Transvaal vs Rhodesia, 20-7 in Pretoria
Orange Free State vs Western Province, 19-15 at Newlands
Transvaal vs Eastern Province, 30-6 in Johannesburg
Northern Transvaal vs Eastern Province, 16-6 in Port Elizabeth
Western Province vs Griqualand West, 20-15 in Kimberley
Northern Transvaal vs South Eastern Transvaal, 49-6 in Pretoria
Western Province vs Eastern Province, 21-13 in Port Elizabeth
Northern Transvaal vs Northern Free State, 36-12 in Pretoria
Orange Free State vs Eastern Transvaal, 28-15 in Springs
Western Province vs Natal, 47-18 at Newlands
Northern Transvaal vs Northern Free State, 24-21 in Welkom
Northern Transvaal vs Northern Free State, 32-15 in Pretoria
Western Province vs Natal, 7-3 in Durban
Natal vs Orange Free State, 26-15 in Durban
Western Province vs Eastern Transvaal, 53-0 at Newlands
Transvaal vs South West Africa, 12-9 in Windhoek
Western Province vs Northern Free State, 26-9 in Welkom
Western Province vs Western Transvaal, 71-9 in Potchefstroom
Natal vs Orange Free State, 35-20 in Durban
Transvaal vs Northern Transvaal, 31-21 in Pretoria
Western Province vs Gauteng Lions, 38-18 at Newlands
Free State Cheetahs vs Natal, 40-22 in Durban
Western Province vs Griqualand West, 24-11 in Kimberley
Blue Bulls vs Natal, 31-17 in Pretoria
Natal vs Free State, 45-17 in Durban
Golden Lions vs South Western Districts Eagles, 81-21 in George
Natal vs Free State Cheetahs, 29-15 in Durban
Western Province vs Golden Lions, 43-22 at Newlands
Natal vs Golden Lions, 16-9 in Durban
Western Province vs Free State Cheetahs, 40-18 at Newlands
Blue Bulls vs Natal, 22-19 in Durban
Golden Lions vs Free State Cheetahs, 43-29 in Bloemfontein
Blue Bulls vs Golden Lions, 40-33 in Pretoria
Free State Cheetahs vs Western Province 17-11 at Newlands
Blue Bulls vs Golden Lions, 31-23 in Pretoria
Free State Cheetahs vs Western Province, 16-11 at Newlands
Free State Cheetahs vs Sharks, 30-14 in Bloemfontein
Blue Bulls vs Western Province, 45-30 in Pretoria
Free State Cheetahs vs Blue Bulls, 11-6 in Bloemfontein
Golden Lions vs Sharks, 19-12 in Durban
Blue Bulls vs Free State Cheetahs, 31-19 in Pretoria
Sharks vs Golden Lions, 29-14 in Durban
Free State vs Sharks, 23-21 in Durban
Blue Bulls vs Western Province, 21-19 at Newlands
Sharks vs Blue Bulls, 16-12 in Durban
Western Province vs Free State Cheetahs, 31-7 at Newlands
Sharks vs Free State Cheetahs, 20-13 in Durban
Golden Lions vs Western Province 29-20 in Johannesburg
Sharks vs Blue Bulls, 20-3 in Durban
Western Province vs Golden Lions, 21-16 in Johannesburg
Sharks vs Cheetahs, 33-22 in Durban
Western Province vs Golden Lions, 33-16 at Newlands
By Paul Dobson