Currie Cup semifinals down the years
IN THE SPOTLIGHT: It's time for the Currie Cup semifinals this weekend - at Kings Park and Newlands. Paul Dobson takes a trip down memory lane.
The Currie Cup, sadly kicked about and battered by the fixture arrangements that give preference to far more recent competitions - Rugby Championship, Super Rugby and even Pro14.
At no stage have most of the provinces been able to field their best teams.
It is so sad, watering down a competition that dates back to 1890 in a variety of formats, but till recently the teams were the best that the provinces could select.
It's sad. In 1988 John Jeffrey of Scotland and Dean Richards of England kicked the century-old Calcutta Cup about and damaged it.
They were suspended and the cup had to be repaired.
Those responsible for the damage to the 126-year-old Currie Cup have not been suspended and one wonders: "Can it ever be repaired? Do the powers even want it repaired?'
Perhaps they are content for one of the greatest rugby competitions in the world to shrivel and die.
South Africa started playing provincial rugby for a tournament in 1889 for the South African Rugby Board's Cup. In 1891 the Currie Cup arrived and the first Currie Cup tournament took place in 1892 - the same tournament as that of 1889 but with the Currie Cup added, giving the winners two trophies. The Currie Cup was more prominent by far.
The first Currie Cup tournament was in 1892, the first Final in 1939 and the first semifinal in 1969.
There was high drama at Newlands in that first semifinal. Boland, captained by Dawie de Villiers were leading 11-3, after climbing into Western Province in the loose. The late Pietman Basson, Corné Krige's father-in-law, and Pierre Ackerman had scored tries, Ackerman's off an intercept followed by a thrilling 70-metre run.
The man who made the difference was the great, unique HO de Villiers, fullback for Western Province. He started running and it changed the game. He converted a try by Preston Robertson and then came into the line on the left of a scrum just inside Boland's half. He made an overlap for speedster Andy van der Watt who scored in the left corner. From touch, HO converted and the final whistle went. People charged onto the ground, as they were allowed to do in those friendly days, and swamped HO the Hero.
The Currie Cup was not in competition every year till 1969. It has been in competition 77 times and there have been semifinals 47 times - well over half the number of times the Currie Cup has been played.
One of them had the strangest occurrence of them all.
The strangest occurrence was the one in 2010 when the Blue Bulls played the Sharks. Not only did the Blue Bulls invade, but so did a swarm of bees. The bees descended onto the field before the players did and the kick-off had to be delayed for 40 minutes while they were, smokily, encouraged to swarm off.
The Blue Bulls have the best record of winning semifinals though they just scraped in this year and they have the daunting task of playing the Sharks who have looked indomitable - till last Saturday, that is.
Western Province has the second best record in semifinals and they are at home again this year. The last time they played the Golden Lions in a semifinal at Newlands, Western Province won handsomely.
On the last two occasions that the Sharks have played the Blue Bulls in Durban, the home side has won, and logic says they should win again this year, but then a rugby ball does not have a logical shape.
Here are the appearances of the four teams in the 2017 semifinals:
Blue Bulls (a.k.a. Northern Transvaal): 18 semifinals - won 14
Western Province 22 semifinals - won 16
Sharks (a.k.a. Natal): 19 semifinals - won 10
Golden Lions (a.k.a. Transvaal and Gauteng Lions): 19 semifinals - won 9
That the Golden Lions are in the semifinal is a remarkable feat. At one stage they were right at the bottom of the Currie Cup log and now there they are in the semifinal with a good chance of going further as they have in their team 12 players who played for the Lions against the Crusaders in the Super Rugby Final.
Administrators have enjoyed playing with the Currie Cup system, and so there have been many changes to it.
In the list of semifinals below, you will find years when there was just one semifinal. In those years the Currie Cup teams were divided into three sections which meant that two of the section winners had to play off for a place in the Final.
In 1973 there were four sections and so two semifinals.
In 1979 the 12 Currie Cup teams were divided into two sections. Section A was made up of strong teams, Section B of weaker teams but the best of the weaker teams played semifinals against the best of the Section A teams, with a remarkable result in 1984.
In the biggest upset of all finals, Natal of the B Section beat the Free State of the A Section to make the final at Newlands. Free State were all set for the Final. They dished out tickets - and then lost in Durban. There was a scramble for them to get the tickets together and off to Durban for Natal to use in a final in which they gave a good account of themselves.
In 1986 there were two sections, A and B, but only a single semifinal - between the second-placed side in the A section and the top of the B Section.
Then the semis were scrapped and No.1 played No.2 in the Final.
In 1996 the number of provinces was reduced to 14 and they all competed in two sections. This led to quarterfinals and then semifinals.
In 1998 there was a league system in which the top four teams qualified for the semifinals in which 1 played 4 and 2 played 3.
In 2003, the Rugby World Cup year, there were no semifinals.
In 2005 there were two sections and two semifinals. The top two teams in each section played each other in the semifinals.
In 2006, as now, the teams were divided into two sections, but the First Division, called the Currie Cup, had no chance at all of competing for the Currie Cup which suggests some kind of a misnomer, but instead the semifinals came from the Premier Division - No.1 vs No.4 and No.2 vs No.3.
There was a change in determining home venues. It used to go by age of province or previous matches between the two. It changed so that position on the log determined home venues as it would for the Final as well. That system continues in 2017.
That means this year that there are three possible venues for the Final.
If the Sharks win the final will be in Durban.
If Western Province win and the Sharks lose, the final will be at Newlands.
If the Golden Lions win and the Blue Bulls win, the Final will be in Johannesburg.
Only Pretoria is sure of not having a Currie Cup Final in 2017 - apart from Kimberley, Bloemfontein and Nelspruit, that is.
Semifinal matches and results + the result of the Currie Cup final
Western Province vs Boland 13-11 at Newlands
Final result: Northern Transvaal vs Western Province, 28-13 in Pretoria
Northern Transvaal vs Natal, 24-8 in Durban
Final result: Griqualand West vs Northern Transvaal, 11-9 in Kimberley
Transvaal vs Natal, 16-9 in Johannesburg
Final result: Transvaal vs Northern Transvaal, 14-14 in Johannesburg
Northern Transvaal vs Rhodesia, 20-7 in Pretoria
Orange Free State vs Western Province, 19-15 at Newlands
Final result: Northern Transvaal vs Free State, 30-22 in Pretoria
Transvaal vs Eastern Province, 30-6 in Johannesburg
Final result: Northern Transvaal vs Transvaal, 17-15 in Pretoria
Northern Transvaal vs Eastern Province, 16-6 in Port Elizabeth
Western Province vs Griqualand West, 20-15 in Kimberley
Final result: Western Province vs Northern Transvaal, 15-15 at Newlands
Northern Transvaal vs South Eastern Transvaal, 49-6 in Pretoria
Western Province vs Eastern Province, 21-13 in Port Elizabeth
Final result: Northern Transvaal vs Western Province, 39-9 in Pretoria
Northern Transvaal vs Northern Free State, 36-12 in Pretoria
Orange Free State vs Eastern Transvaal, 28-15 in Springs
Final result: Northern Transvaal vs Free State, 23-6 in Pretoria
Western Province vs Natal, 47-18 at Newlands
Northern Transvaal vs Northern Free State, 24-21 in Welkom
Final result: Western Province vs Northern Transvaal, 24-7 at Newlands
Northern Transvaal vs Northern Free State, 32-15 in Pretoria
Western Province vs Natal, 7-3 in Durban
Final result: Western Province vs Northern Transvaal, 9-3 in Pretoria
Natal vs Orange Free State, 26-15 in Durban
Western Province vs Eastern Transvaal, 53-0 at Newlands
Final result: Western Province vs Natal, 19-9 at Newlands
Transvaal vs South West Africa, 12-9 in Windhoek
Final result: Northern Transvaal vs Transvaal, 24-18 in Johannesburg
Western Province vs Northern Free State, 26-9 in Welkom
Final result: Northern Transvaal vs Western Province, 19-18 in Pretoria
Western Province vs Western Transvaal, 71-9 in Potchefstroom
Final result: Western Province vs Northern Transvaal 16-16 at Newlands
Natal vs Orange Free State, 35-20 in Durban
Transvaal vs Northern Transvaal, 31-21 in Pretoria
Final result: Natal vs Transvaal, 33-15 in Johannesburg
Western Province vs Gauteng Lions, 38-18 at Newlands
Free State Cheetahs vs Natal, 40-22 in Durban
Final result: Western Province vs Free State Cheetahs, 14-12 Newlands
Western Province vs Griqualand West, 24-11 in Kimberley
Blue Bulls vs Natal, 31-17 in Pretoria
Final result: Blue Bulls vs Western Province, 24-20 in Pretoria
Natal vs Free State, 45-17 in Durban
Golden Lions vs South Western Districts Eagles, 81-21 in George
Final result: Golden Lions vs Natal, 32-9 in Durban
Natal vs Free State Cheetahs, 29-15 in Durban
Western Province vs Golden Lions, 43-22 at Newlands
Final result: Western Province vs Natal, 25-15 in Durban
Natal vs Golden Lions, 16-9 in Durban
Western Province vs Free State Cheetahs, 40-18 at Newlands
Final result: Western Province 29 Natal, 29-24 at Newlands
Blue Bulls vs Natal, 22-19 in Durban
Golden Lions vs Free State Cheetahs, 43-29 in Bloemfontein
Final result: Blue Bulls vs Golden Lions, 31-7 in Johannesburg
Blue Bulls vs Golden Lions, 40-33 in Pretoria
Free State Cheetahs vs Western Province 17-11 at Newlands
Final result: Blue Bulls vs Cheetahs, 42-33 in Pretoria
Blue Bulls vs Golden Lions, 31-23 in Pretoria
Free State Cheetahs vs Western Province, 16-11 at Newlands
Final result: Cheetahs vs Blue Bulls, 29-25 in Pretoria
Free State Cheetahs vs Sharks, 30-14 in Bloemfontein
Blue Bulls vs Western Province, 45-30 in Pretoria
Final result: Cheetahs vs Blue Bulls, 28-28 in Bloemfontein
Free State Cheetahs vs Blue Bulls, 11-6 in Bloemfontein
Golden Lions vs Sharks, 19-12 in Durban
Final result: Cheetahs vs Golden Lions, 20-18 in Bloemfontein
Blue Bulls vs Free State Cheetahs, 31-19 in Pretoria
Sharks vs Golden Lions, 29-14 in Durban
Final result: Sharks vs Blue Bulls, 14-9 in Durban
Free State vs Sharks, 23-21 in Durban
Blue Bulls vs Western Province, 21-19 at Newlands
Final result: Blue Bulls vs Free State Cheetahs, 36-24 in Pretoria
Sharks vs Blue Bulls, 16-12 in Durban
Western Province vs Free State Cheetahs, 31-7 at Newlands
Final result: Sharks vs Western Province, 30-10 in Durban
Sharks vs Free State Cheetahs, 20-13 in Durban
Golden Lions vs Western Province 29-20 in Johannesburg
Final result: Golden Lions vs Sharks, 42-16 in Johannesburg
Sharks vs Blue Bulls, 20-3 in Durban
Western Province vs Golden Lions, 21-16 in Johannesburg
Final result: Western Province vs Sharks, 25-18 in Durban
Sharks vs Free State Cheetahs, 33-22 in Durban
Western Province vs Golden Lions, 33-16 at Newlands
Final result: Sharks vs Western Province, 33-19 at Newlands
Golden Lions vs Sharks, 50-20 in Johannesburg
Western Province vs Blue Bulls, 31-23 at Newlands
Final result: Western Province vs Golden Lions, 19-16 at Newlands
Golden Lions vs Free State Cheetahs, 43-33 in Johannesburg
Western Province vs Blue Bulls, 23-18 in Pretoria
Final result: Golden Lions vs Western Province, 32-24 in Johannesburg
Free State Cheetahs vs Golden Lions, 55-17 in Bloemfontein
Blue Bulls vs Western Province, 36-30 in Pretoria
Final result: Free State Cheetahs vs Blue Bulls, 36-16 in Bloemfontein
By Paul Dobson