Continuing the heritage of rivalry between the provinces

Steeped in history and tradition, South Africa’s premier Provincial rugby competition, the ABSA-Currie Cup, dates back to 1889.

The tournament is the cornerstone of South Africa’s rugby heritage. After more than a century of existence, the coveted gold trophy remains the most prestigious prize in South African domestic rugby.

The ABSA-Currie Cup had its beginnings in 1884 when an inter-town competition was inaugurated. In 1889 it was upgraded to an inter-centre tournament. The then South African Rugby Board donated a silver trophy to be presented to the winners. Western Province became the first winners of the "Raadsbeker", which today stands in the SA Rugby Museum in Cape Town.

The trademark gold trophy was donated by Sir Donald Currie in 1891 on the departure of WE Maclaglan’s British Isles team to South Africa. This was to be presented to the local team that did the best against the visitors. The trophy was presented to Griqualand West who, in turn, presented it to the Board for the inter-centre competition. Western Province became the first winners of the gold trophy in 1892.

Only five teams participated in the inaugural Currie Cup tournament in 1892. Matches were played on a round-robin format at a central venue over a period of a week to ten days with the log winners getting the trophy. This structure remained in place until 1920. In these early years the competition was not played annually. International tours took preference and there were disruptions during wartime.

In 1922 the competition was extended to eight teams. Matches were played on a home and away basis over the duration of the rugby season. Transvaal won in 1922 but Western Province continued to dominate, notching up four outright wins and sharing the trophy twice with Border between 1923 and 1936.

By 1939, the tournament had grown to 12 teams, split into North and South regions. The winners of each section faced each other in what was to be the very first Currie Cup Final. In the competition’s Jubilee Year, Transvaal beat Western Province 17 - 6 to record their first-ever Currie Cup victory at Newlands in Cape Town.

The next Currie Cup final was to take place seven years later in 1946, after the end of the Second World War. Again Western Province qualified for the final but they were beaten 11 - 9 by Northern Transvaal in Pretoria.

Western Province won again in 1947, Transvaal beat Northern Transvaal to win in 1950 and Border won their first title in 1952.

In 1954, the Currie Cup structure was changed. Fifteen teams were divided into three sections and semi-finals were played for the first time.

The eventual winners were Western Province who beat Northern Transvaal 11 - 8 at Newlands. The Blue Bulls were victorious in 1956 after they beat Natal 9 - 8 in the Durban side’s first Final appearance at Kingsmead.

In 1957 a new Currie Cup format was introduced. It was decided that the Currie Cup would be played on a league basis across two seasons, 1957 and 1959. At the end of 1959, Western Province had one point more than Northern Transvaal and the trophy returned to Newlands. No final was played. Unhappiness over this system led to the Currie Cup being cancelled for five years until 1964. In this year, the competition was divided into five sections with the individual winners going forward into a further league competition. Again there was no final with Western Province taking the honours after finishing top of the standings. This format was repeated in 1966 with Western Province again emerging victorious.

No Currie Cup competition was held in 1967 as a result of the French tour to South Africa. In 1968, the number of teams in the competition increased to 16, divided into two pools. Northern Transvaal won their third title after beating Transvaal in the final.

While the system was regularly changed to include either two or three sections, the Currie Cup competition has been played and a Final held every year from 1968 to the present day. The period between the 1968 and 1981 saw the Blue Bulls’ golden years. Over a period of 14 years the men from Pretoria won the title outright nine times and shared it twice. This spectacular run included five straight titles between 1977 and 1981 (shared with WP in 1979).

Western Province took over the Champions mantle in the early to mid-eighties when they repeated Northerns’ feat of five consecutive wins between 1982 and 1986. Northerns won the title again in 1987 and 1988 and shared the spoils with Province in 1989. Natal, who won their first-ever title in 1990, eventually broke the 13-year dominance by Province and the Blue Bulls. Although Northerns came back to win against the odds in 1991, the nineties heralded a new Currie Cup rivalry - that between Transvaal and Natal.

Natal won again in 1992, 1995 and 1996 while Transvaal were title holders in 1993 and 1994. The wheel turned full-circle when Western Province claimed the title for the first time in 11 years in the 1997 final against Free State. In 1998, the Blue Bulls claimed the title for the first time since 1991 and the Lions (formerly Transvaal) became the last champions of the 20th century when they beat the Natal Sharks in the 1999 final.

Western Province won the first two titles of the 21st century, beating the Natal Sharks in both the 2000 and 2001 final. The Blue Bulls came to the fore in 2002, beating the Lions in the final to secure their second title in five seasons.

From 2003 the ABSA-Currie Cup reverts to a strength vs strength system with a Premier Division of eight teams and a First Division of six teams. A double-round of matches will be played with the top two teams in each Division qualifying for the respective finals.

Over more than a century, the ABSA-Currie Cup has seen many changes, but the ultimate prize has remained the same - that of being crowned South Africa’s Provincial rugby champions.

The Castle Lager Rugby Championship
Saturday, July 20 2019
17:05 - South Africa vs Australia
Emirates Airline Park, Johannesburg
Saturday, July 27 2019
09:35 - New Zealand vs South Africa
Westpac Stadium, Wellington
Saturday, August 10 2019
00:00 - Argentina vs South Africa
Castle Lager Incoming Series
Saturday, August 17 2019
17:05 - South Africa vs Argentina
Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
RWC Warm-up game
Friday, September 06 2019
00:00 - Japan vs South Africa
Kumagaya Rugby Stadium, Saitama
Rugby World Cup
Saturday, September 21 2019
11:45 - South Africa vs New Zealand
International Stadium, Yokohama
Saturday, September 28 2019
11:45 - South Africa vs Namibia
City of Toyota Stadium
Friday, October 04 2019
11:45 - South Africa vs Italy
Shizuoka Stadium
Tuesday, October 08 2019
12:15 - South Africa vs Canada
Kobe Misaki Stadium

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