The Currie Cup tournament is South Africa's premier domestic rugby union competition, played each winter and spring (June to October), featuring teams representing either entire provinces or substantial regions within provinces. Although it is the premier domestic competition, South African teams also compete in the international Super Rugby competition as well as the Pro14.
Steeped in history and tradition, the Currie Cup dates back to 1891. 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.
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The Currie Cup is one of the oldest rugby competitions, with the first games played in 1889 but it was only in 1892 that it became officially known as the Currie Cup. The competition had its humble beginnings as an inter-province 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 original participating unions were Western Province, Griqualand West, Transvaal and Eastern Province. The first tournament was held in Kimberley and was won by Western Province. For a prize they received a silver cup donated by the South African Rugby Board, now displayed at the SA Rugby Museum in Cape Town. The story of how the Currie Cup came to be comes from the first overseas rugby team to tour South Africa in 1891, The British Isles, who carried with them a particularly precious bit of cargo. Among the bags, boots and balls was a golden cup given to them by Sir Donald Currie, owner of Union-Castle Lines, the shipping company that transported them to the southern tip of Africa. 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 where the unbeaten British Lions narrowly won 3-0, Griqualand West became the first ever holders of the Currie Cup. They then handed the trophy over to the South African rugby board and it became the floating trophy for the Currie Cup competition. The inaugural Currie Cup tournament was thus held in 1892 with Western Province earning the honour of holding it aloft as the first official winners.
The competition missed a few years here and there for reasons such as war and the like, but in 1968 it became a fully fledged annual showpiece. Western Province dominated the competition's early years, and by 1920 the team from Cape Town had already secured the trophy 10 times. Only Griqualand West could halt the rampant WP side and win the trophy in 1899 and 1911. In 1922 the Transvaal won the competition for the first time, however Western Province would continue to dominate the Currie Cup throughout the 1920s and 1930s, winning the trophy a further 4 times and sharing it twice with Border. In 1939 the trophy returned to Johannesburg for only the second time after Transvaal defeated Western Province in Cape Town. This was the first time WP had lost a final at their home ground Newlands. The Currie Cup went into hiatus during the Second World War but resumed in 1946 when Northern Transvaal claimed their first ever trophy by beating Western Province 11-9 in the final at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria. The late 1940s and early 1950s were dominated by Transvaal who would win the trophy in 1950 and 1952, however in 1954 the Currie Cup would finally return south following Western Province's narrow 11-8 victory over Northern Transvaal in the final at Newlands in Cape Town.
At the end of the 1980s, South African rugby 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 Northern Transvaal 16-all, Riaan Gouws missed the conversion which would have given WP its 6th title of the decade a feat which has never been achieved. The following year the Blue Bulls slipped up, though, and Natal 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. Since the age of professionalism in rugby union in the early 1990s, the Currie Cup has become much more competitive with no team able to carve out an era of dominance like that of WP in the early years or Northern Transvaal in the 1970s and 1980s. All five of the so-called 'big unions' have won the Currie Cup on at least one occasion in the last 20 years; the Golden Lions (formerly Transvaal) have won the trophy 3 times in 1999, 2011 and 2015; Western Province have won the trophy on six occasions in 1997, 2000, 2001, 2012, 2014, and 2017; the Blue Bulls (formerly Northern Transvaal) have wom the trophy 5 times in 1998, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2009; the Free State Cheetahs have won the trophy 3 times in 2005, 2007 and 2016 and the Sharks have won the trophy 3 times in 2008, 2010 and 2013. In 2006 the trophy was shared by the Free State Cheetahs and Blue Bulls following their 28-28 all draw in a tense final in Bloemfontein. Whilst these days the competition lags behind Super Rugby and The Rugby Championship (previously the Tri-Nations) in the order of importance, the Currie Cup still holds a special place amongst South African rugby supporters and players, with the trophy very much still the holy grail of the South African domestic rugby scene.
From 1996 to 2015, the following 14 provincial unions participated in the Currie Cup:
|Currie Cup teams|
|Blue Bulls||Pretoria||The Pretoria metropolitan area and the entire Limpopo province|
|Boland Cavaliers||Wellington||Northern and central districts of the Western Cape province|
|Border Bulldogs||East London||Eastern districts of the Eastern Cape province|
|Eastern Province Kings||Port Elizabeth||Western districts of the Eastern Cape province|
|Falcons||Kempton Park||The East Rand and other municipalities to the east and south of Johannesburg in Gauteng province|
|Free State Cheetahs||Bloemfontein||Central and western districts of the Free State province|
|Golden Lions||Johannesburg||Johannesburg and the West Rand|
|Griffons||Welkom||Northern and eastern districts of the Free State province|
|Griquas||Kimberley||The entire Northern Cape province|
|Leopards||Potchefstroom||The entire North West province|
|Pumas||Nelspruit||The entire Mpumalanga province|
|Sharks||Durban||The entire KwaZulu-Natal province|
|SWD Eagles||George||Eastern districts of the Western Cape province|
|Western Province||Cape Town||Cape Town metropolitan area|
Between 1892 and 1920, the competition was held as a centralised tournament, with the team with the best record crowned as the winner. Between 1922 and 1936 (as well as in three tournaments between 1957 and 1966), the winner was the team with the best record following a round-robin competition. In all the other seasons, a final was played to determine the champion.
|Currie Cup Champions and Finals Results|
|Season||Champions||Runner-Up||Final Result||Final Venue|
|1932||Border & Western Province (shared)||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|1934||Border & Western Province (shared)||N/A||N/A||N/A|
|1939||Transvaal||Western Province||17–6||Newlands Stadium, Cape Town|
|1946||Northern Transvaal||Western Province||11–9||Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria|
|1947||Western Province||Transvaal||16–12||Newlands Stadium, Cape Town|
|1950||Transvaal||Western Province||22–11||Ellis Park Stadium, Johannesburg|
|1954||Western Province||Northern Transvaal||11–8||Newlands Stadium, Cape Town|
|1956||Northern Transvaal||Natal||9–8||Kings Park Stadium, Durban|
|1968||Northern Transvaal||Transvaal||16–3||Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria|
|1969||Northern Transvaal||Western Province||28–13||Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria|
|1970||Griqualand West||Northern Transvaal||11–9||De Beers, Kimberley|
|1971||Northern Transvaal & Transvaal (shared)||N/A||14–14||Ellis Park Stadium, Johannesburg|
|1972||Transvaal||Eastern Transvaal||25–19||Pam Brink Stadium, Springs|
|1973||Northern Transvaal||Free State||30–22||Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria|
|1974||Northern Transvaal||Transvaal||17–15||Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria|
|1975||Northern Transvaal||Free State||12–6||Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein|
|1976||Free State||Western Province||33–16||Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein|
|1977||Northern Transvaal||Free State||27–12||Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria|
|1978||Northern Transvaal||Free State||13–9||Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein|
|1979||Northern Transvaal & Western Province (shared)||N/A||15–15||Newlands Stadium, Cape Town|
|1980||Northern Transvaal||Western Province||39–9||Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria|
|1981||Northern Transvaal||Free State||23–6||Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria|
|1982||Western Province||Northern Transvaal||24–7||Newlands Stadium, Cape Town|
|1983||Western Province||Northern Transvaal||9–3||Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria|
|1984||Western Province||Natal||19–9||Newlands Stadium, Cape Town|
|1985||Western Province||Northern Transvaal||22–15||Newlands Stadium, Cape Town|
|1986||Western Province||Transvaal||22–9||Newlands Stadium, Cape Town|
|1987||Northern Transvaal||Transvaal||24–18||Ellis Park Stadium, Johannesburg|
|1988||Northern Transvaal||Western Province||19–18||Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria|
|1989||Northern Transvaal & Western Province (shared)||N/A||16–16||Newlands Stadium, Cape Town|
|1990||Natal||Northern Transvaal||18–12||Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria|
|1991||Northern Transvaal||Transvaal||27–15||Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria|
|1992||Natal||Transvaal||14–13||Ellis Park Stadium, Johannesburg|
|1993||Transvaal||Natal||21–15||Kings Park Stadium, Durban|
|1994||Transvaal||Free State||56–33||Springbok Park, Bloemfontein|
|1995||Natal||Western Province||25–17||Kings Park Stadium, Durban|
|1996||Sharks6||Golden Lions3||33–15||Ellis Park Stadium, Johannesburg|
|1997||Western Province||Free State Cheetahs4||14–12||Newlands Stadium, Cape Town|
|1998||Blue Bulls5||Western Province||24–20||Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria|
|1999||Golden Lions||Sharks||32–9||Kings Park Stadium, Durban|
|2000||Western Province||Sharks||25–15||Kings Park Stadium, Durban|
|2001||Western Province||Sharks||29–24||Newlands Stadium, Cape Town|
|2002||Blue Bulls||Golden Lions||31–7||Ellis Park Stadium, Johannesburg|
|2003||Blue Bulls||Sharks||40–19||Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria|
|2004||Blue Bulls||Free State Cheetahs||42–33||Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria|
|2005||Free State Cheetahs||Blue Bulls||29–25||Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria|
|2006||Blue Bulls & Free State Cheetahs (shared)||N/A||28–28||Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein|
|2007||Free State Cheetahs||Golden Lions||20–18||Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein|
|2008||Sharks||Blue Bulls||14–9||Kings Park Stadium, Durban|
|2009||Blue Bulls||Free State Cheetahs||36–24||Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria|
|2010||Sharks||Western Province||30–10||Kings Park Stadium, Durban|
|2011||Golden Lions||Sharks||42–16||Ellis Park Stadium, Johannesburg|
|2012||Western Province||Sharks||25–18||Kings Park Stadium, Durban|
|2013||Sharks||Western Province||33–19||Newlands Stadium, Cape Town|
|2014||Western Province||Golden Lions||19–16||Newlands Stadium, Cape Town|
|2015||Golden Lions||Western Province||32–24||Ellis Park Stadium, Johannesburg|
|2016||Free State Cheetahs||Blue Bulls||36–16||Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein|
|2017||Western Province||Sharks||33–21||Kings Park Stadium, Durban|
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.
|Team||Number of wins||Notes||Most recent|
|Western Province||34||Four shared||2017|
|Northern Transvaal/Blue Bulls||23||Four shared||2009|
|Transvaal/Gauteng Lions/Golden Lions||11||One shared||2015|
|Orange Free State/Free State Cheetahs||5||One shared||2016|
|Border/Border Bulldogs||2||Two shared||1934|
Since the competition become established as an annual competition in 1968 (see History above).
|Team||Number of wins||Notes||Most recent|
|Northern Transvaal/Blue Bulls||21||Four shared||2009|
|Western Province||13||Two shared||2017|
|Transvaal/Gauteng Lions/Golden Lions||7||One shared||2015|
|Orange Free State/Free State Cheetahs||5||One shared||2016|
|Helgard Müller||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||
|André Joubert||Free State/Natal||1986–1999||
SuperSport broadcasts live Currie Cup matches in South Africa.
Setanta Sports Asia broadcasts live Currie Cup matches in Asia.
Sky Sports broadcasts live Currie Cup matches in the United Kingdom. WatchESPN airs live Currie Cup matches in the Americas via online streaming.