With the trophy came a very clear instruction to present the trophy to the team that gave the most spirited opposition during a tour match.
After a hard fought match Griqualand West became the first ever holders of the trophy that would, over the next century or so become the Holy Grail that South African provincial Rugby Teams would work tirelessly to possess.
Over the next few days, Rugby Talk will endeavour to present the history of this prestigeous competition to fellow Rugby lovers, hopefully providing a deeper insight into the meaning of the competition to players and administrators alike, and of course you, the Rugby fan and spectator.
In this the first installment we will look at the general history of the competition, followed by the individual Provinces in subsequent installments.
THE EARLY DAYS.
Despite Griquas being the first team team to hold the Currie Cup trophy, the start of the competition can actually be traced back to 1884, where the competition was a humble inter town competition played between just 4 teams.
However, in 1889 the South African Rugby Board (SARB) was formed, and a decision was made to organise a country wide competition in which all of the major Rugby playing Provinces would compete.
The first ever competition was held in Kimberly in 1889, and was won by Western Province who overcame Griquas, Transvaal and Eastern Province to triumph.
They were presented with a silver trophy donated by the South African Rugby Board, and which is now permanently on display in the South African Rugby Museum in Cape Town.
After being awarded the Currie Cup by the touring British Isles team in 1891, the Griqualand West Rugby Union subsequently donated the trophy to the SARB, and so it became the trophy that would be played for by participating Unions until this day.
THE 19TH CENTURY
In the early days, the competition was by no means a regular event and in fact, the competition would not become an annual competition until 1968 and was played 6 times between Griquas donating the trophy in 1891, and the turn of the century.
Western Province were victorious on 5 of those 6 occasions, with only Griquas again winning the trophy in 1899.
It must however be noted that in the competition of 1899 neither Western Province or Transvaal competed, so there is every possibilty that had they competed, Western Province may well have won the trophy 6 times in the same decade, something that has never been achieved to date.
Why Western Province and Transvaal failed to compete is unclear, but in all likelhood it had something to do with the imminent outbreak of the Second Anglo Boer War which started on 11 October 1889 when the combined South African Republic (Transvaal Republic) and the Orange Free State declared war on the British Empire.
Indeed, the Currie Cup would not be competed for again until 1904.
THE 2OTH CENTURY – THE FIRST 25 YEARS
The Currie Cup was played for on 8 occasions during the first quarter of the 20th Century, and as in the last decade of the 19th Century, it was Western Province who dominated the competion, winning it 6 times.
The only other teams to emerge victorious during this period were Griqualand West, who again held the trophy aloft in 1911, and Transvaal who were victorious in 1922.
Once again armed conflict played a significant role as no competition was played between 1914 and 1920 due to the first World War and it’s aftermath.
1926 – 1950
During the second quarter of the 20th Century, the world was once more ravaged by armed conflict, with the second World War once again having an impact on the Currie Cup, with no competition played from 1940 to 1945 (inclusive).
When it was played though, the competition was once again dominated in the early phase of this era by Western Province, who won the competition five times between 1927 and 1936, twice shared with Border. (1932 and 1934).
But in 1938 an event was to take place that would significanly shape the future outcomes of the Currie Cup.
Northern Transvaal broke away from their parent Union the Transvaal, and so a slumbering giant was born.
The year after the Transvaal lost the services of the clubs North of the Jukskei river, in 1939 they were to lift the trophy aloft for the second time, beating the then mighty Western Province by 17 points to 6 at Newlands in Cape Town.
The year after the end of the war 1946, however it was the turn of Northern Transvaal to add their name to the prestigious trophy. The 4th team to do so.
Again Western Province were the beaten finalists losing out 11-9 to the northerners at Loftus Versveld, and it seemed that the dominance of the competition that had been shown by the Cape Rugby outfit was starting to wane.
The era ended with Transvaal again winning against Western Province in 1950. This time at Ellis Park by 22 points to 11, and so the Western Province stranglehold on the competition that had lasted for more than 5 decades was truly broken.
1951 – 2000
This era of the Currie Cup is best broken up into two significant sections. Pre 1968, and Post 1968.
Pre 1968 the competition was still being played on an almost ad-hoc basis, and indeed was only played 4 times in between 1951 and 1967, with one of the competitions being split over 3 seasons (1957 – 1959), and no competitions at all from 1959 – 1967.
This period was significant in that the Currie Cup finals would see 2 new provinces competing at two new venues.
In 1952 Boland made it to the final, but were pipped at Wellington 11 – 9 by Transvaal who won the competition for the second consequtive time.
The other newcomer to Currie Cup finals was Natal, who in 1956 were pipped 9 – 8 by Northern Transvaal at Kings Park.
Post 1968 the Currie Cup would become an annual event, and would evolve into the competition that many of us have come to love and look forward to year in and year out.
It all started in 1968 when Northern Transvaal, under the leadership of South Africa’s Rugby player of the 20th Century, the charismatic Frik Du Preez trounced the Transvaal side, 16 – 8.
This was the start of a period that would see the teams from North of the Orange River dominate the competition until 1981, when the sleeping giant that was Western Province would emerge from their slumber and again dominate the competition for nearly a decade winning 5 times in succession from 1982 – 1986.
The 1990′s saw Natal, win their first Currie Cup in their centenary year, but the decade was arguably dominated by Transvaal / the Golden Lions, and the last decade of the 20th century saw the prestigious trophy being shared by Northern Transvaal, the Sharks, and at last sustained success for the Free State Cheetahs.
In subsequent articles we’ll look individually at the Provincial Unions participating in the Premier division this year, and hopefully discect their chances of lifting this most glorious of trophies.
As the first team to hold the Currie Cup aloft, way back in 1891, I thought it fitting to start with the team every other team hates to play against on their hard Karoo field in Kimberley – Griqualand West.