Prize money awarded for the first time
The Currie Cup competition has been given the 'ultimate makeover' for the 2013 season with the winners set to walk away with a ZAR1,8m cheque and a trophy restored to its 1891 historic glory.
The tournament has been given a major revamp by the South African Rugby Union in arguably one of the most exciting developments in the competition's 122-year history.
However, it is not just the country's premier competition, the Currie Cup, but also the First Division (second tier) and age-group competitions (Under-21 and Under-19) that will share in a new ZAR5m prize fund.
And the coveted trophy, donated by Donald Currie more than a century ago, returned this week from the workshops in which it was made and where it had been sent for restoration.
"The Currie Cup is the 'Holy Grail' of South African rugby and now the winners will be rewarded as such and the trophy looks like it once more," said Jurie Roux, SARU CEO.
"The competition is massively important to the provinces, players, coaches and sponsors and by offering prize money for the first time in the competition's history we're underlining the Currie Cup's current status as well as its historical significance."
Roux said the prize money would be split as follows:
* Currie Cup (Premier Division) champions - ZAR1,8m
* Currie Cup runners up - ZAR1,2m
* First Division champions - ZAR1m
* First Division runners up - ZAR500 000
* U21 'A Division' champions - ZAR200 000
* U21 'A Division' losing finalists - ZAR50 000
* U19 'A Division' champions - ZAR200 000
* U19 'A Division' losing finalists - ZAR50 000
The prize money is awarded to the provincial union in each case to be used at their discretion.
However, ZAR200 000 of the ZAR1,8m awarded to the Currie Cup Premier Division winner is to be allocated to the Academy structures at the victorious union.
"The Currie Cup is the oldest domestic competition in the world - as far as we know," said Roux, adding: "and the winners since 1891 have only ever received the trophy.
"The awarding of prize money aligns our premier domestic competition with the modern tradition of many top sports tournaments worldwide by financially rewarding provinces and their players for their hard work.
"Many iconic Springboks took the first meaningful steps in their senior rugby careers in the Currie Cup and I have no doubt that this tradition will continue with the crop of young players coming through in SA."
To coincide with the new season, the famous trophy also underwent an extensive restoration to recapture its former glory.
A near century and a quarter of presentations and celebrations had taken their toll of a trophy that was actually manufactured in 1875.
The Cup was returned to Garrard of London, the Crown Jewellers, from whose workshops it had first emerged. The handle - which had been damaged in recent times - was remodeled and the whole trophy given back its golden sheen.
"The trophy first arrived here 122 years ago and it was in need of a makeover after passing through so many hands in celebration," said Roux.
"It is now restored to its original glory and is worthy once again of being the centrepiece of South African rugby. It is an iconic cup and will be the source of many more memorable rugby moments in years to come."
* Donald Currie gave the famous golden cup to the captain of the first British team to tour South Africa in 1891 with instructions that it was to be presented to the first team to beat the tourists, where after it should become a floating trophy for interprovincial competition in South Africa. In the event, the tourists were unbeaten but the trophy was presented to Griqualand West, who were adjudged to have put up the best performance against the 1891 team. Their name is the first to appear on it.
It was first competed for by provincial teams in 1892 - when Western Province were the winners - and, at one time, was not contested during seasons when international touring teams were in South Africa. Since 1968 the competition has been held annually. The first Final was held in 1939.