|Current season or competition:
2013 Currie Cup Premier Division
|No. of teams||Premier Division: 6
First Division: 8
|Most recent champion(s)||Natal Sharks|
- For the cricket competition originally known as the Currie Cup, see SuperSport Series.
The Currie Cup tournament (also known as the ABSA Currie Cup for sponsorship reasons) is South Africa's premier domestic rugby union competition, played each winter and spring (June to October), featuring teams representing either entire provinces or substantial regions within provinces. Although it is the premier domestic competition, South African teams also compete in the international Super Rugby competition.
Steeped in history and tradition, the Currie Cup dates back to 1889. The tournament is regarded as the cornerstone of South Africa's rugby heritage, and the coveted gold trophy remains the most prestigious prize in South African domestic rugby.
The Currie Cup is one of the oldest and most prestigious competitions around with the first games played in 1889 but it was only in 1892 that it became officially known as the Currie Cup. The story of how the name came to be comes from the first overseas team to tour South Africa in 1891, The British Isles, who carried with them a particularly precious bit of cargo. Among the bags, boots and balls was a golden cup given to them by Sir Donald Currie, owner of Union-Castle Lines, the shipping company that transported them to the southern tip of Africa. Sir Donald was clear with his instructions – hand this trophy over to the team in South Africa that gives you the best game and after a spirited display where the unbeaten Lions narrowly won 3-0, Griqualand West became the first ever holders of the Currie Cup. They then handed the trophy over to the South African rugby board and it became the floating trophy for the Currie Cup competition. The inaugural Currie Cup tournament was held in 1892 with Western Province earning the honour of holding it aloft as the official first winners. Sadly the competition missed a few years here and there for obvious reasons such as war and the like but in 1968 it become the fully fledged annual showpiece that we know and love today, with the trophy very much still the holy grail of South African rugby.
The competition had its humble beginnings as an inter-town competition in 1884, but when the South African Rugby Board was founded in 1889 it decided to organize a national competition that would involve representative teams from all the major unions. The participating unions were Western Province, Griqualand West, Transvaal and Eastern Province. The first tournament was held in Kimberley and was won by Western Province. As prize they received a silver cup donated by the South African Rugby Board, now displayed at the SA Rugby Museum in Cape Town.
While local unions battled for the Currie Cup from 1892 onwards it would take decades for an annual competition to be established. After years of occasional tournaments, dominated by Western Province, South Africa’s premiere provincial spectacle kicked off in earnest in 1968. That year the Blue Bulls of Northern Transvaal, spearheaded by the legendary lock Frik du Preez, trampled neighbours Transvaal 16-3 in the final, heralding a period of overall dominance that has seen the men from Pretoria win the Currie Cup 16 times and share it on three occasions. This outstanding record is in no small part down to the most influential player to ever star in the competition—fly-half extraordinaire Naas Botha. Dictating play with supreme tactical awareness throughout a career that spanned three decades, Botha single-handedly kicked teams into submission, scoring all the Blue Bulls’ points (including four drop-goals) in 1987 as Transvaal were beaten 24-18 in the final.
From when the Currie Cup became an annual competition until the mid-1980s only one team had seriously challenged the supremacy of the Western Province rugby club—arch rivals Northern Transvaal, also known as the "Blue Bulls". Wild parties broke out all over Cape Town when Western Province thrashed Northern Transvaal 24-7 in the 1982 final to kick-start their own golden age. Currie Cup heroes like Faffa Knoetze, Calla Scholtz and steam-rolling wing Neil Burger ensured that the trophy remained in the shadow of Table Mountain for a further four years before again heading north.
At the turn of the decade South African supporters were treated to two of the most memorable Currie Cup finals. In 1989 winger Carel du Plessis scored a last-minute try as WP managed to draw with the Blue Bulls 16-all, Riaan Gouws missed the conversion which would have given WP its 6th title of the decade a feat which has never been achieved. The following year most people believed Northern Transvaal just needed to turn up to beat Natal. The banana boys made sure the Blue Bulls slipped up, though, as they sneaked home 18-12, inspired by fly-half Joel Stransky. The 1990s saw further improvement by Natal and the rise of Francois Pienaar’s Transvaal but, from the moment the Springboks were allowed back into the international fold in 1992, the significance of the Currie Cup steadily started to diminish.
These days the competition lags well behind Super Rugby and The Rugby Championship (previously the Tri-Nations) in the order of importance for most of South Africa’s top players. In 2005, Free State won the Currie cup for the first time in 29 years. The Bulls came on a runners up, but nevertheless proved their worthiness in the Super 12.
When the first overseas team to tour South Africa stepped ashore in 1891 they carried with them a particularly precious bit of cargo. Among the bags, boots and balls was a golden cup given to the British Isles squad by Sir Donald Currie, owner of Union-Castle Lines, the shipping company that transported them to the southern tip of Africa. The gold trophy was donated by Sir Donald Currie in 1891 before the arrival of the touring British Isles team. Sir Donald was clear with his instructions—hand this trophy over to the team in South Africa that gives you the best game and after a spirited display, Griqualand West became the first ever holders of the Currie Cup. To this day the trophy remains the holy grail of South African rugby. They then donated the trophy to the rugby board, and it became the prize for the Currie Cup competition. The inaugural Currie Cup tournament was held in 1892 with Western Province as the first winners.
The current Currie Cup format sees the competition split into two divisions. Six teams are in the Premier Division, and contest for the Currie Cup trophy (In 2012, the format changed with the Leopards and the Pumas dropping to the First division. The team that finds themselves at the bottom of the Premier division at the end of the league season has to play 2 promotion/relegation games against the winners of the First division). The other eight (previously six) teams are in the Currie Cup First Division, and the winner plays for the chance to be promoted to the Premier Division. The format has changed many times over the years, with the most recent format change taking effect in 2012.
The qualifying rounds are contested in a double round-robin format, with each team playing all the others home and away. This makes 10 games in the Premier division and 14 in the First Division. Teams are awarded four points for a win, two for a draw, and zero for a loss. Single bonus points are awarded to teams by two possible outcomes; scoring four tries in a match, or losing a match by seven points or less. Thus, the winner of a match can receive four or five points, whereas a loser can receive up to two points for a loss depending on whether they gain any bonus points.
At the close of the round-robin phase, the top four teams in each division, based on points totals, advance to the knock-out stages. The bottom two teams are forced into promotion/relegation play-offs. The semi-finals are hosted by the teams finishing first and second on the log, and they play the third and fourth placed teams respectively. The final is held at the home ground of the highest ranked semi-final winner. The winner of the Premier Division final wins the Currie Cup trophy.
The first division semi-finals and finals work in the same way, with the winning team receiving a different trophy. The winning team of the First division, takes part in the promotion/relegation play-offs (previously the top two teams from the round robin log, irrespective of semi-final performance, would've played these play-offs). These are two-legged matches, played with the same points system as the regular season. The top ranked First Division team plays the last placed Premier Division team ( Previously the second placed First Division team would've played the second last placed Premier Division team). The winner of the promotion/relegation series would play in the following seasons Premier Division, while the losers would play in the First Division.
Currently, South Africa is divided into 14 unions. Four draw players from an entire province:
- Griquas - Northern Cape (home matches in Kimberley)
- Leopards - North West (home matches in Potchefstroom)
- Natal Sharks - KwaZulu-Natal (home matches in Durban)
- Pumas - Mpumalanga (home matches in Witbank)
The Eastern Cape contains two unions:
- Border Bulldogs - eastern (home matches in East London)
- Eastern Province Kings - western (home matches in Port Elizabeth)
as does Free State:
- Free State Cheetahs - central and western (home matches in Bloemfontein)
- Griffons - eastern (home matches in Welkom)
Western Cape has three unions:
- Boland Cavaliers (Afrikaans: Boland Kavaliers) - northern (home matches in Wellington)
- SWD Eagles - eastern (home matches in George)
- Western Province - Cape Town metropolitan area
Gauteng has two unions that draw exclusively from portions of that province:
- Falcons (Afrikaans: Valke) - the East Rand and other municipalities to the east and south of Johannesburg (home matches in Brakpan)
- Golden Lions - Johannesburg and municipalities to its west (home matches in Johannesburg)
Finally, one union draws players from part of Gauteng plus the entirety of another province:
- Blue Bulls - Pretoria, the two Gauteng municipalities to its east, and Limpopo Province (home matches in Pretoria)
1 Western Province and Transvaal did not compete.
2 Contested over two seasons.
3 Transvaal were renamed the Gauteng Lions; now known as Golden Lions.
4 Orange Free State were renamed the Free State Cheetahs.
5 Northern Transvaal were renamed the Blue Bulls.
|Team||Number of wins||Notes||Most recent|
|Western Province||32||Four shared||2012|
|Northern Transvaal/Blue Bulls||23||Four shared||2009|
|Transvaal/Gauteng Lions/Golden Lions||10||One shared||2011|
|Orange Free State/Free State Cheetahs||4||One shared||2007|
|Border/Border Bulldogs||2||Two shared||1934|
Since the competition become established as an annual competition in 1968 (see History above).
|Team||Number of wins||Notes||Most recent|
|Northern Transvaal/Blue Bulls||21||Four shared||2009|
|Western Province||11||Two shared||2012|
|Transvaal/Gauteng Lions/Golden Lions||6||One shared||2011|
|Orange Free State/Free State Cheetahs||4||One shared||2007|
Records and statistics
- Most career matches
|Jacques Botes||Pumas/Natal Sharks||2002–||
|Helgard Muller||Free State Cheetahs||1983–98||
|Rudi Visagie||Free State/Natal/Mpumalanga||1980–96||
|Chris Badenhorst||Free State Cheetahs||1987–99||
|Burger Geldenhuys||Blue Bulls||1977–89||
|Andre Joubert||Free State/Natal||1986–99||
- Most career points
- Most career tries
- 1. 74 John Daniels (Golden Lions/Boland Cavaliers)
- 2. 66 Breyton Paulse (Western Province)
- 3. 65 Chris Badenhorst (Free State)
- 4. 58 Andre Joubert (Free State/Natal)
- 5. 51 Gerrie Germishuys (Free State/Transvaal)
- 5. 51 Carel Du Plessis (Western Province/Transvaal)
- 5. 51 Niel Burger (Western Province)
- 5. 51 Jan-Harm Van Wyk (Free State/Pumas)
- Most individual points in a season
- 1. 268 Johan Heunis (Northern Transvaal) 1989
- 2. 263 Gavin Lawless (Golden Lions) 1996
- 3. 252 Casper Steyn (Blue Bulls) 1999
- 4. 230 Kennedy Tsimba (Cheetahs) 2003
- 5. 228 Kennedy Tsimba (Cheetahs) 2002
- Most team points in a season
- Natal Sharks (792 in 1996)
- Most individual tries in a season
- 1. 21 Bjorn Basson (Griquas) 2010
- 2. 19 Carel Du Plessis (Western Province) 1989
- 2. 19 Colin Lloyd (Leopards) 2006
- 4. 18 Ettiene Botha (Blue Bulls) 2004
- 5. 16 Jan-Harm Van Wyk (Free State) 1997
- 6. 15 Phillip Burger (Cheetahs) 2006
- Most team tries in a season
- Natal Sharks (112 in 1996)
- Most points in match
- Jannie De Beer – 46 v. Northern Free State in 1997
- Most tries in a match
- Jacques Olivier – 7 v SWD in 1996
- Most final appearances
- Burger Geldenhuys 11 (Northern Transvaal—between 1977 and 1989)
- Naas Botha 11 (Northern Transvaal—between 1977 and 1991)
Setanta Sports Asia broadcasts live Currie Cup matches in Asia.
- Latest Currie Cup News
- Currie Cup News from Prime Rugby
- Currie Cup history from Planet Rugby
- ABSA Currie Cup records (correct to the end of 2006)
- Thau, Chris (2006-11-06). "100 years of South African rugby: Part one". irb.com. Archived from the original on 2007-06-08. Retrieved 2007-05-25.
- "History of the Currie Cup". sarugby.com. 2006-10-11. Retrieved 2007-05-25.
- "Good news for Currie Cup". sarugby.com. 2006-11-30. Retrieved 2007-05-25.
- SA Rugby - Currie Cup News