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The Currie Cup - South Africa's premier rugby competition
Brief historical introduction
In 1890 the British Rugby team sailed to South Africa aboard the Dunnottar Castle on her maiden voyage. The team carried with them, in addition to all their rugby equipment, a golden trophy cup donated by Sir Donald Currie, founder and chairman of the shipping line which owned the Dunnottar Castle, The Castle Mail Packet Company Limited.
This trophy was to be given by the British team to the colonial team which gave them their best game on the tour. The trophy was duly handed to the Griqualand West rugby team and it was later handed over to the rugby board which inaugurated an annual competition for the trophy, which came to be known as the Currie Cup. This competition is one of the oldest in world rugby.
Ever since South Africa is gripped in the winter months by a fanatical fervour of rugby - fans follow their teams with total devotion and the winner of the trophy achieves the highest prestige of any club within South Africa.
The competition is fiercely fought and is based mainly on provincial lines, though some provinces have more than one franchise, for example Gauteng has both the Blue Bulls based in Pretoria and the Golden Lions based in Johannesburg. Prior to 1994 South Africa had only four provinces but after the elections of 1994 this was increased to nine.
Organisation of the tournament
Of the 14 rugby unions spread across the nine provinces there are eight in the Premier Division that contest the Currie Cup. The other six unions are in the First Division and play for promotion to the Premier Division.
The eight in the Premier Division are the Sharks from Durban in kwaZulu-Matal, Western Province from Cape Town, the Cheetahs from Bloemfontein in the Free State, Griquas from Kimberley in Northern Cape Province, Leopards from Potchefstroom in North West Province, Boland from the Western Cape, the Blue Bulls from Pretoria and the Golden Lions from Johannesburg.
Of these the most fanatical and best organised supporters are from the Blue Bulls, the franchise with the second most wins (22 wins) in the tournament, after the Western Cape (32 wins).
Bulls fever in Pretoria
Although I am not a rugby fan by any means I have had to start taking some notice of the game since marrying Catherine as she is one of those fanatical Blue Bulls supporters! As a result every week end becomes a tense time as she waits for and then watches each game her team plays. Then the Blue Bulls flag comes out and the Blue Bulls song, composed and sung by equally fanatical singer Steve Hofmeyr, gets played very loudly on the stereo if the Bulls win, or the set gets switched off in silence if they lose.
It's all very serious stuff indeed. Tears frequently follow losses and tears of joy wins.
Every week end that the Blue Bulls play Pretoria becomes awash with flags and t-shirts and caps and even bull's horns on the fronts of cars. Posters proclaim "Our blood is blue!" on lamp poles and bill boards shout "Waars jou blou trui? (Where's your blue rugby jersey?)" and street vendors do a roaring trade in rugby accessories like shirts, caps and scarves.
Catherine was born in Cape Town so her support of the Blue Bulls is unusual and so strong that she actually looked for work in Pretoria in order to be near the team she loves so much! I guess I owe the Blue Bulls!
The Blue Bulls' homes ground is the Loftus Versfeld Stadium in Pretoria which has become a shrine of South African rugby, and not many teams are able to overcome the home ground advantage that the Blue Bulls enjoy there. the Loftus Versfeld crowd is known for its passionate and partisan support of the home team.
The Blue Bulls last won the Currie Cup in 2004 when they beat the Free State Cheetahs at Loftus Versfeld. The next year they were surprisingly defeated on their home turf. This year's result is rather eagerly awaited in this household!
The text and all images on this page, unless otherwise indicated, are by Tony McGregor who hereby asserts his copyright on the material. Should you wish to use any of the text or images feel free to do so with proper attribution and, if possible, a link back to this page. Thank you.
© Tony McGregor 2009