South African rugby’s premier domestic competition, the 116-year-old ABSA Currie Cup, launches week with a round of compulsory friendlies ahead of the big kick-off on 20 June.
There are eight teams in the top tier of the competition, which climaxes with one of the oldest cup finals in the world game on 25 October, and they will be battling for a trophy that was presented to South African sport by the first British touring team to reach their shores.
Bill Maclagen’s squad set sail for South Africa from Southampton on 20 September, 1891, on board he Dunottar Castle. Maclagen was given custody of a special golden cup by the chairman of the Union Castle Shipping line, Sir Donald Currie, to present to the team that performed best against them.
The British team won every game on that tour, but they singled out Griqualand West as their best opponents and they became the proud first owners of the Currie Cup.
The inaugural Currie Cup tournament was held in 1892, with Western Province becoming the first winners of the official tournament.
They are still in the top tier and their clash with the Sharks on Friday, 20 June will give the competition a spectacular kick-off. Western Province and the Sharks will meet the 2009 British & Irish Lions next summer and many of the players who feature in the ABSA Currie Cup this year will be in line to play against the Lions for the Highveld XV, Coastal XV and Emerging Springboks.