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.
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.
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:
|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|
|1968||Northern Transvaal||16 - 3||Transvaal||Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria|
|1969||Northern Transvaal||28 - 13||Western Province||Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria|
|1970||Griqualand West||11 - 9||Northern Transvaal||De Beers, Kimberley|
|1971||Transvaal||14 - 14||Northern Transvaal||Ellis Park, Johannesburg|
|1972||Golden Lions||25 - 19||Falcons||Pam Brink, Springs|
|1973||Northern Transvaal||30 - 22||Orange Free State||Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria|
|1974||Northern Transvaal||17 - 15||Transvaal||Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria|
|1975||Northern Transvaal||12 - 6||Orange Free State||Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein|
|1976||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|
|Team||Number of wins||Notes|
|Western Province||32||Four shared.|
|Blue Bulls||22||Four shared.|
|Golden Lions||9||One shared.|
|Free State Cheetahs||4||One shared.|
|Border Bulldogs||2||Two shared.|
|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|