The historic Gold Cup has been brought out of retirement and painstakingly restored as the ‘Holy Grail’ for club rugby players in the Cell C Community Cup, the South African Rugby Union (SARU) announced on Wednesday.
The nine-carat gold trophy is one of the most expensive and historically significant trophies in the SARU collection.
The trophy had been out of use since 2002, until SARU decided to take it out of mothballs as the prestigious new trophy for the Cell C Community Cup.
"The story of South African rugby can be told through the iconic trophies that our teams have held aloft over the years,” said Jurie Roux, SARU CEO. “The Cell C Community Cup is all about history, tradition, heritage and diversity, and our challenge therefore was to find a 'Holy Grail' for club rugby that was on a par with the Webb Ellis Cup or Absa Currie Cup.
“An historic trophy is a magical thing. It gives a voice to all the players that have gone before, and every time a new team claims it, a new chapter is written. Thousands of boys dream of winning the Absa Currie Cup or Webb Ellis Cup but, for those who never reach the professional ranks, we want the Gold Cup to represent the same level of importance and aspiration.”
Roux said the reintroduction of the Gold Cup was also an important step in SARU's mission to tell the full story of South Africa's rugby history – a task that will gain further momentum later this year with the opening of a revamped and world-class Springbok Experience rugby museum in Cape Town.
The Gold Cup was made in England nearly a century ago. It was originally intended for the winners of an annual air race between London and Cape Town but found its way into rugby as the interprovincial trophy of the former South African Rugby Football Federation (SARFF) from 1961-74. The last winners were the Tygerberg Rugby Union.
When SARFF became part of the SA Rugby Board (SARB) in 1978, the Gold Cup became an interprovincial competition involving all affiliated units of the new enlarged body until 1991.
In the professional era, the Gold Cup was awarded to the South section winners of the old Provincial A competition until 10 years ago, with Free State and WP sharing the trophy when it was last contested in 2002.
The Gold Cup was bought from a Cape Town jeweller in 1960 for UK£1 000 and remains the only major trophy bought with funds raised by ordinary club players.
The Gold Cup – An Historical Background
•The Cuthbert Loriston Gold Cup competition was an inter-¬provincial or regional competition of the former South African Rugby Football Federation (SARFF), which was established in 1959.
•It was named after the first president of the Federation, Cuthbert (Charles) Loriston and the trophy was procured from Mendelsohn Jewellers, formerly of Darling Street in Cape Town.
•At the time, it cost the princely sum of UK£1 000. The Cup is made of soft gold and was originally meant for an intercontinental air race that was due to finish in Cape Town but which never took place – hence the flying eagles on the upright bowl.
•The original competing regions for the competition in the period up to 1978 were the Boland, Hottentots Holland (the inaugural winners), Karoo, South Western Districts, Swartland and Tygerberg rugby unions.
•The original Gold Cup competition, which started in 1961 and lasted until 1974, was played from June every second year with about two matches per month culminating with a final in September.
•When the SARFF joined the South African Rugby Board (SARB) in 1978, the Gold Cup became an integrated interprovincial competition involving all the affiliated units of the new enlarged body. Under the new SARB dispensation, the Western Province Juniors became the inaugural champions and the WP Gold Cup team the last one before formal rugby unity was achieved.
•Under the unified South African Rugby Football Union (SARFU), Western Transvaal became the first champion in 1992. At the conclusion of this competition in 2002, the trophy was shared by Free State and WP.