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Currie Cup Tournament

The Currie Cup tournament (also known as the ABSA Currie Cup for sponsorship) is South Africa's premier domestic rugby union competition, featuring teams representing either entire provinces or substantial regions within provinces. Although it is the premier domestic competition, South Africa also competes in the international Super Rugby competition.

The Currie Cup has been competed for since 1899 and is one of the oldest rugby competitions in the world. It has been held on an annual basis since the 1968 season. It is presently contested by eight teams, and the current champions are the Free State Cheetahs.

Currie Cup History

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 was decided to organise 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.

Since the Currie Cup became an annual competition only one team has seriously challenged the Bulls’ supremacy – arch rivals Western Province. Wild parties broke out all over Cape Town when WP 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 insured 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. 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 the Super 14 and Tri-Nations in the order of importance for most of South Africa’s top players. Still, look at the toothy grins in the Blue Bulls camp as the team lifted the trophy for the third time in a row in 2004 and it’s clear that getting your hands on Sir Donald Currie’s golden cup is still mighty special. 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.

Currie Cup Trophy

Currie Cup TrophyWhen 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.

Currie Cup Format

The current Currie Cup format sees the competition split into two divisions. Eight teams are in the Premier Division, and contest the Currie Cup. The other six teams are in the First Division, and play for the chance to be promoted to the Premier Division. The format has changed many times over the years, but this format is due to remain in place until 2011 at least.

The qualifying rounds are contested in a double round-robin format, with each team playing all the others home and away. This makes 14 games in the Premier division and 12 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 advance to the knock-out stages, to contest the semi-final, and then the final. The winner of the Premier Division final wins the Currie Cup.

The winner of the First Division final plays the team that finishes last in the Premier Division in a two-leg playoff to determine which team plays in the Premier Division the following season.

Currie Cup Teams

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)
Mighty Elephants - western (home matches in Port Elizabeth)

Free State has two Unions:

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)
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)

Source - Wikipedia

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Currie Cup table (Premier Division)              Currie Cup Table
1 Lions 4 4 0 0 167 68 99 3 20
2. Blue Bulls 4 4 0 0 186 92 94 4 20
3. W.Province 4 2 2 0 102 97 5 2 10
4. Cheetahs 4 2 2 0 81 96 -15 2 10
5. Sharks 4 2 2 0 97 109 -12 1 9
6. Pumas 4 2 2 0 86 122 -36 0 8
7. EP Kings 4 0 4 0 52 99 -47 1 2
8. 4 0 4 0 72 156 -84 1 1

(Updated each Monday to check with officials)

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