Die Currie Cup Kom Weer
SPOTLIGHT: This week the Currie Cup starts. For years and years, it was the acme of the rugby season in South Africa.
Winning the Currie Cup crowned a season as successful.
First it was a centralised tournament, then sometimes played on league format. But it was having a final that most caught the imagination and enthusiasm. Rugby tickets have never been as hard to get in South Africa as they were for a Currie Cup Final. And not only the finals were sold out.
The fervour has diminished with the arrival of Super rugby and crowds for all SANZAAR rugby are meagre compared with what happened in the past. The history should always be recalled.
Provincial competition in South Africa dates back to 1889. That was the year the South African Rugby Board was founded, and it was founded for two purposes – to standardise the laws amongst South African provinces and to organise an interprovincial competition.
The Board was founded in Kimberley and the first provincial tournament was held in Kimberley, the country’s business centre at the time.
The first competition was in 1889. Four teams took part – Western Province, Griqualand West, Transvaal and Eastern Province. The trophy was presented by the SA Rugby Board, and Western Province were the winners.
Then came the British in 1891. They sailed out on the Dunottar Castle, a ship belonging to Sir Donald Currie, a man who made a fortune through South Africa’s gold and diamonds and through his shipping line. Currie’s ship brought not only the rugby team but also a cup, intended to become a rugby floating trophy, as had happened for cricket in 1888. It was the Currie Cup, from the start a sponsor’s trophy. The first time it was a provincial competition was in 1892, again in Kimberley where the money was.
The first time the Currie Cup was presented for an interprovincial competition was in 1892 when both the Board’s Trophy and the Currie Cup were presented to the winners, again Western Province.
The Currie Cup continued as a centralised tournament, held from time to time in the days when international rugby was rare in South Africa – seven times in 50 years.
Before 1939 and 1957-59, when the Currie Cup was played over two years, 1964 and 1966, the Currie Cup was decided at a tournament or by way of logs. In 1939 there was a final, as there has been every year since 1968.
Western Province dominated the early competitions, winning nine times on the first 10 occasions and in the year they did not win they did not take part because the Anglo-Boer War had started.
That was in 1899. The year before the tournament had been at Newlands. A horrible accident dominated the tournament.
Davey Cope, the first South African to kick a conversion in a Test match, and Boy Tait were travelling together by train to Cape Town. Cope had booked into third class because that was all he could afford and Tait, who was in first class, moved down to be with his team-mate. At Mostert’s Hoek, between Laingsberg and Matjiesfontein, the train collided with a goods train and Cope was killed on the spot. Tait was taken to Somerset Hospital in Cape Town where he died. Transvaal’s first match, against Eastern Province was cancelled.
The 1911 tournament was again at Newlands and this time Western Province lost 12-0 to Griquas. It was the first time that they had lost a Currie Cup match.
The last tournament was in 1920. There were nine teams at this tournament – Western Province, Griquas, Orange Free State, Transvaal, Western Transvaal, Eastern Province, South Western Districts, Border and North Eastern Districts. For this reason, the tournament was shared between Kimberley and Bloemfontein. After this, the tournament was played on a league system over a single round. This lasted till 1936 with the number of teams varying and on four other occasions. From then on it was decided by a final.
In 1932, Western Province lost its second match – again at Newlands but this time to Border with whom they shared the Currie Cup as they did again in 1934 when Border beat Western Province in East London. In 1932, Border lost to Transvaal and in 1934 to Natal.
* This week’s podcast looks at the decline of the Currie Cup competition …
Currie Cup Winners Down the Years
1889: Western Province at a tournament in Kimberley
1892: Western Province at a tournament in Kimberley
1894: Western Province at a tournament at Newlands
1895: Western Province at a tournament in Johannesburg
1897: Western Province at a tournament in Port Elizabeth
1898: Western Province at a tournament at Newlands
1899: Griquas at a tournament in Kimberley
1904: Western Province at a tournament in East London
1906: Western Province at a tournament in Johannesburg
1908: Western Province at a tournament in Port Elizabeth
1911: Griquas at a tournament at Newlands
1914: Western Province at a tournament in Durban
1920: Western Province at a tournament in Bloemfontein & Kimberley
1925: Western Province
1927: Western Province
1929: Western Province
1932: Western Province & Border
1934: Western Province & Border
1936: Western Province
1939: Transvaal – the first final
1946: Northern Transvaal
1947: Western Province
1954: Western Province
1956: Northern Transvaal
1957-59: Western Province
1964: Western Province
1966: Western Province
1968: Northern Transvaal
1969: Northern Transvaal
1971: Northern Transvaal & Transvaal
1973: Northern Transvaal
1974: Northern Transvaal
1975: Northern Transvaal
1976: Free State
1977: Northern Transvaal
1978: Northern Transvaal
1979: Western Province & Northern Transvaal
1980: Northern Transvaal
1981: Northern Transvaal
1982: Western Province
1983: Western Province
1984: Western Province
1985: Western Province
1986: Western Province
1987: Northern Transvaal
1988: Northern Transvaal
1989: Northern Transvaal & Western Province
1991: Northern Transvaal
1997: Western Province
1998: Blue Bulls
2000: Western Province
2001: Western Province
2002: Blue Bulls
2003: Blue Bulls
2004: Blue Bulls
2005: Free State
2006: Blue Bulls & Free State
2007: Free State
2008: Natal Sharks
2009: Blue Bulls
2010: Natal Sharks
2011: Golden Lions
2012: Western Province
2014: Western Province
2015: Golden Lions
2016: Free State Cheetahs
2017: Western Province
Transvaal became the Golden Lions
Northern Transvaal became the Blue Bulls
Natal have become the Sharks.
Number of Titles
34 Western Province including 4 shared
23 Blue Bulls including 4 shared
11 Golden Lions including 1 shared
5 Free State including 1 shared
2 Border both shared