golden cup

Currie Cup

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, 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 14 competition.

Steeped in history and tradition, the ABSA Currie Cup dates back to 1889 and is one of the oldest rugby competitions in the world. 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 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.

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 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. 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.


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. 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.


Currently, South Africa is divided into 14 unions. Four draw players from an entire province:

The Eastern Cape contains two unions:

as does Free State:

Western Cape has three unions:

Gauteng has two unions that draw exclusively from portions of that province:

Finally, one union draws players from part of Gauteng plus the entirety of another province:


Season Winners Score Runner-up Venue
1889 Western Province n/a n/a n/a
1892 Western Province n/a n/a n/a
1894 Western Province n/a n/a n/a
1895 Western Province n/a n/a n/a
1897 Western Province n/a n/a n/a
1898 Western Province n/a n/a n/a
18991 Griqualand West n/a n/a n/a
1904 Western Province n/a n/a n/a
1906 Western Province n/a n/a n/a
1908 Western Province n/a n/a n/a
1911 Griqualand West n/a n/a n/a
1914 Western Province n/a n/a n/a
1920 Western Province n/a n/a n/a
1922 Transvaal n/a n/a n/a
1925 Western Province n/a n/a n/a
1927 Western Province n/a n/a n/a
1929 Western Province n/a n/a n/a
1932 Border/Western Province n/a n/a n/a
1934 Border/Western Province n/a n/a n/a
1936 Western Province n/a n/a n/a
1939 Transvaal 17 - 6 Western Province

Newlands, Cape Town
1946 Northern Transvaal 11 - 9 Western Province Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
1947 Western Province 16 - 12 Transvaal Newlands, Cape Town
1950 Transvaal 22 - 11 Western Province Ellis Park, Johannesburg
1952 Transvaal 11 - 9 Boland Wellington
1954 Western Province 11 - 8 Northern Transvaal Newlands, Cape Town
1956 Northern Transvaal 9 - 8 Natal Sharks Kings Park Stadium, Durban
1957/592 Western Province n/a n/a n/a

Northern Transvaal 16 - 3 Transvaal Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria

Northern Transvaal 28 - 13 Western Province Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria

Griqualand West 11 - 9 Northern Transvaal De Beers, Kimberley
1971 Transvaal 14 - 14 Northern Transvaal Ellis Park, Johannesburg

Golden Lions 25 - 19 Falcons Pam Brink, Springs

Northern Transvaal 30 - 22 Orange Free State Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria

Northern Transvaal 17 - 15 Transvaal Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria

Northern Transvaal 12 - 6 Orange Free State Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein

Orange Free State 33 - 16 Western Province Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
1977 Northern Transvaal 27 - 12 Orange Free State Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
1978 Northern Transvaal 13 - 9 Orange Free State Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
1979 Western Province 15 - 15 Northern Transvaal Newlands, Cape Town
1980 Northern Transvaal 39 - 9 Western Province Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
1981 Northern Transvaal 23 - 6 Orange Free State Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
1982 Western Province 24 - 7 Northern Transvaal Newlands, Cape Town
1983 Western Province 9 - 3 Natal Sharks Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
1984 Western Province 19 - 9 Northern Transvaal Newlands, Cape Town
1985 Western Province 22 - 15 Northern Transvaal Newlands, Cape Town
1986 Western Province 22 - 9 Transvaal Newlands, Cape Town
1987 Northern Transvaal 24 - 18 Transvaal Ellis Park, Johannesburg
1988 Northern Transvaal 19 - 18 Western Province Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
1989 Northern Transvaal 16 - 16 Western Province Newlands, Cape Town
1990 Natal Sharks 18 - 12 Northern Transvaal Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
1991 Blue Bulls 27 - 15 Transvaal Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
1992 Natal Sharks 14 - 13 Transvaal Ellis Park, Johannesburg
1993 Transvaal 21 - 15 Natal Sharks Kings Park Stadium, Durban
1994 Transvaal 56 - 35 Orange Free State Springbok Park, Bloemfontein
1995 Natal Sharks 25 - 17 Western Province Kings Park Stadium, Durban
1996 Natal Sharks 33 - 15 Golden Lions3 Ellis Park, Johannesburg
1997 Western Province 14 - 12 Free State Cheetahs4 Newlands, Cape Town
1998 Blue Bulls5 24 - 20 Western Province Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
1999 Golden Lions 32 - 9 Natal Sharks Kings Park Stadium, Durban
2000 Western Province 25 - 15 Natal Sharks Absa Stadium, Durban
2001 Western Province 29 - 24 Natal Sharks Newlands, Cape Town
2002 Blue Bulls 31 - 7 Golden Lions Ellis Park, Johannesburg
2003 Blue Bulls 40 - 19 Natal Sharks Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
2004 Blue Bulls 42 - 33 Free State Cheetahs Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
2005 Free State Cheetahs 29 - 25 Blue Bulls Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
2006 Free State Cheetahs 28 - 28 Blue Bulls6 Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein
2007 Free State Cheetahs 20 - 18 Golden Lions Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein

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.
6 Free State Cheetahs and Blue Bulls tied and shared the title.

Overall winners

Team Number of wins Notes
Western Province 32 Four shared.
Blue Bulls 22 Four shared.
Golden Lions 9 One shared.
Natal Sharks 4
Free State Cheetahs 4 One shared.
Wildeklawer Griquas 3
Border Bulldogs 2 Two shared.

Records and statistics

  • Most Career Matches

Name Team/s Seasons Games
Helgard Muller Free State Cheetahs 1983-1998
Rudi Visagie Free State/Natal/Mpumalanga 1980-1996
Chris Badenhorst Free State Cheetahs 1987-1999
Burger Geldenhuys Blue Bulls 1977-1989
Andre Joubert Free State/Natal 1986-1999

  • Most career points
    • 1. 1699 Naas Botha (Northern Transvaal) 1977-1992
    • 2. 1402 Eric Herbert (Northern Free State/Free State) 1986-2001
    • 3. 1210 De Wet Ras (Free State/Natal) 1974-1986
    • 4. 1165 Andre Joubert (Free State/Natal) 1986-1999
    • 5. 1090 Willem de Waal (Leopards/Free State/WP) 2002-
  • Most career tries
    • 1. 74 John Daniels (Golden Lions/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. 19 Carel Du Plessis (Western Province) 1989
    • 1. 19 Colin Lloyd (Leopards) 2006
    • 3. 18 Ettiene Botha (Blue Bulls) 2004
    • 4. 16 Jan-Harm Van Wyk (Free State) 1997
    • 5. 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. X in 199X
  • 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)

See also

External links

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