The Currie Cup is the premier domestic rugby competition in South Africa. It is the oldest provincial competition in the world, dating back to 1889.
Sir Donald Currie first brought a Currie Cup over from Glasgow in 1888. It is little known that the cup was designated to be presented to the winner of an inter-provincial cricket competition. In fact, Sir Donald also sponsored trophies in other sports at the time including soccer, rugby, water polo and swimming.
In 1891, the rugby Currie Cup finally arrived on South African shores along with the touring British Isles rugby team. It was to be presented to the team that gave the touring team the best match. It was then gifted to the SA Rugby Union where it became the trophy for the inter-provincial matches.
In the early days the competition was a tournament played in one location. This continued until about 1922 when a league system was introduced, sometimes with 2 divisions and a final, sometimes with the top team of the league winning. It was not always played every year as well.
The first final was held in 1939 and from 1968 it has been held on an annual basis. Only 6 teams have won the Currie Cup: Western Province, Griquas, Blue Bulls, Golden Lions, Free State Cheetahs, Natal Sharks.
How Does The Currie Cup Work?
Over the years the Currie Cup has seen many changes in the rules of the tournament. There have been tournaments, league competitions, sometimes with finals and sometimes without. At times there were only a few teams plying in the competition.
Today, there are 14 teams playing in the tournament:
– The Griquas of the Northern Cape Province
– The Blue Bulls of Gauteng and Limpopo Province
– The Leopards from the North West Province
– The Pumas from Mpumalanga
– The Border Bulldogs and the Eastern Province Kings both of the Eastern Cape
– The Griffons and the Free State Cheetahs from the Free State
– The Boland Cavaliers, SWD Eagles and Western Province from the Western Cape
– The Falcons and the Golden Lions of Gauteng
– The Natal Sharks from KwaZulu-Natal
The Currie Cup tournament is split into 6 teams representing the premier division and the other 8 teams forming the first division. While teams in the premier division vie for the chance to hold the Currie Cup high, teams in the first division play to join the premier division.
Each division plays its games in a double round robin format where each team gets to play each of the other teams in the division, home and away.
The losing premier team plays 2 relegation matches against the winning first division team for their place in next years premier division.
The Currie Cup has a long and varied history. It is a much prized trophy to hold and while professional rugby has replaced it to a degree it is still the premier domestic competition in South African rugby.