DOWN MEMORY LANE | 3 massive Currie Cup final upsets

Meyer Bosman celebrates scoring the winning try during the Currie Cup final between the Blue Bulls and Free State Cheetahs at Loftus Versfeld on 22 October 2005 (Photo: Duif du Toit/Gallo Images)
Meyer Bosman celebrates scoring the winning try during the Currie Cup final between the Blue Bulls and Free State Cheetahs at Loftus Versfeld on 22 October 2005 (Photo: Duif du Toit/Gallo Images)
Duif du Toit
  • Due to Covid-19 disrupting the 2020 rugby calendar, this year's Currie Cup is likely to take on significant importance.
  • In the history books, three Currie Cup finals stand out as major upsets.
  • The Blue Bulls were on the receiving end on all three occasions.

The Covid-19 pandemic has thrown the 2020 rugby calendar into disarray and left the top brass of SA Rugby scrambling for proposals to ensure the year has some sort of value.

SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux on Monday insisted that the governing body was intent on playing a local version of Super Rugby, as well as completing a Currie Cup schedule.

The country's rugby bosses may find the going tough juggling both events - as well as scheduling Tests - but one thing is certain, if there is any sort of rugby in South Africa for the remainder of 2020, the Currie Cup will no doubt generate more interest than it has in recent years.

The competition was arguably the world's strongest domestic event during the isolation years and largely the reason why the Springboks slotted almost seamlessly back into the international fold in 1992.

As part of a series of several Down Memory Lane throwbacks, Sport24 again delves deep into the archives.

The Currie Cup final used to be the biggest event on the local sporting calendar and Herman Mostert has recalled some great final upsets.

Currie Cup finals were only contested annually since 1968 and, surprisingly, there haven't been too many upsets over the years.

Here follows THREE great Currie Cup final upsets, with a few notable mentions as a closing argument:

1970 - Griqualand West 11-9 Northern Transvaal, Kimberley

A Mannetjies Roux-inspired Griqualand West (now simply known as Griquas) caused the first major shock in Currie Cup finals history when they upset a Springbok-laden Northern Transvaal (now called Blue Bulls).

Northerns had top Springboks in the form of lock duo Frik du Preez and Johan Spies, props Ronnie Potgieter and Mof Myburgh, hooker Gys Pitzer, flank Thys Lourens, scrumhalf Piet Uys and fullback Tonie Roux and were firm favourites to win a hat-trick of Cup finals.

But Griquas produced an inspired display, with young wing Buddy Swartz scoring a brace of tries and flank Peet Smith kicking a monster penalty from inside his own half in the dying stages to upset the apple cart.

Apart from midfielder Roux, Griquas also boasted Springbok halfbacks Joggie Viljoen and Piet Visagie.

Griquas' coach was renowned former Springbok centre Ian Kirkpatrick, who refused to take much credit for the win.

The Griquas players lived far apart which made practicing difficult - Roux drove 300km from his farm in Victoria West - and Kirkpatrick instead hailed the "dedication and confidence" of the players.

"The players just lived too far apart... game plans are all very well but you must be able to score tries. We slowly built up a team that could score tries," Kirkpatrick said (The McLook Rugby Collection).

1990 - Northern Transvaal 12-18 Natal, Pretoria

Natal (now called Sharks) won the Currie Cup for the first time in their history in 1990 - their century year.

Not many gave scrumhalf Craig Jamieson's charges a chance when they took on the mighty Blue Bulls at Loftus Versfeld on 6 October 1990.

The Banana Boys were soundly beaten 28-6 at the same ground just two weeks prior and had also lost 24-9 to Northerns at Kings Park in earlier round-robin action.

The Natalians were coached by Ian McIntosh who made sure they had a pack that stood up to the might of the Bulls.

The Durbanites sported a potent front row in Gerhard Harding, Tom Lawton and Guy Kebble and a massive lock pairing of Andre Botha and Rudi "Vleis" Visagie.

McIntosh also caught the Bulls off-guard shortly before kick-off when he named regular lock Steve Atherton at flank alongside Wahl Bartmann and Andrew Aitken in the loose trio.

Natal led for most of the game but found themselves 12-9 down with less than 10 minutes remaining, before a classic winger's try down the right touchline from speedster Tony Watson put the visitors back in the lead.

Flyhalf Joel Stransky converted the four-pointer for a 15-12 advantage but referee Freek Burger then awarded Natal a penalty on halfway because Bulls centre Jannie Claassens had dived on Watson after he dotted down.

Stransky stepped up to convert the penalty and Natal held on for a famous win.

After the game, Northern Transvaal captain Naas Botha claimed it would take Natal "another 100 years to win their next trophy".

Botha was proved wrong two years later when Natal beat Transvaal 14-13 in the 1992 Currie Cup final at Ellis Park.

2005 - Blue Bulls 25-29 Free State Cheetahs, Pretoria

The Bulls were again on the receiving end of a major final shock when the Free State Cheetahs won their first Currie Cup title since 1976.

The 1976 triumph was Free State's only prior Currie Cup success, and when they trailed 25-15 heading into the final 10 minutes, a fourth Bulls title on the trot appeared almost a certainty.

With Springbok winger Bryan Habana in the sin-bin, the Cheetahs gave themselves a sniff when fullback Bevan Fortuin dotted down before a moment of skill and good fortune stunned the Loftus faithful.

Young centre Meyer Bosman chased an up-and-under from scrumhalf Noel Oelschig and, after miscommunication between Bulls scrumhalf Fourie du Preez and fullback Johan Roets, scooped on a loose ball to dot down under the posts.

Free State held on for a famous win to hand Rassie Erasmus the Currie Cup in his first year as a head coach.

Much to the ire of the Bulls camp, there was a rather comical incident in the post-match celebrations when Cheetahs prop Ollie le Roux smoked a cigar on the field.

In an interview with last month, Le Roux said he actually smoked the cigar out of respect for the high calibre of team they beat.

Ollie le Roux

Ollie le Roux smokes a cigar after the 2005 Currie Cup final at Loftus Versfeld... (Gallo Images)

Notable mentions

Other Currie Cup final results with a somewhat lessor shock value include the 1976 one when Orange Free State thumped Western Province 33-16 for their first title. Morne du Plessis' side arrived in Bloemfontein as favourites after a stellar season, which included a win over the touring All Blacks, and they twice beat the Free Staters in round-robin play.

The Golden Lions' 42-16 annihilation of the Sharks at Ellis Park in 2011 was also an upset for the apple cart, with Josh Strauss' charges turning over their more fancied opponents, who had several Springboks back in their line-up from World Cup duty.

A year later, Western Province's 25-18 win over the Sharks at Kings Park was a result not predicted by the bookies. The visitors had not won the Cup in 11 years and arrived in Durban with a young side as several of their star Springboks were injured.

Currie Cup final results over the years:

1939: Western Province 6-17 Transvaal, Cape Town
1946: Northern Transvaal 11-9 Western Province, in Pretoria
1947: Western Province 16-12 Transvaal, Cape Town
1950: Transvaal 22-11 Western Province, Johannesburg
1952: Boland 9-11 Transvaal, Wellington
1954: Western Province 11-8 Northern Transvaal, Cape Town
1956: Natal 8-9 Northern Transvaal, Durban
1968: Northern Transvaal 16-3 Transvaal, Pretoria
1969: Northern Transvaal 28-13 Western Province, Pretoria
1970: Griqualand West 11-9 Northern Transvaal, Kimberley
1971: Transvaal 14-14 Northern Transvaal, Johannesburg
1972: Eastern Transvaal 19-25 Transvaal, Springs
1973: Northern Transvaal 30-22 Orange Free State, Pretoria
1974: Northern Transvaal 17-15 Transvaal, Pretoria
1975: Orange Free State 6-12 Northern Transvaal, Bloemfontein
1976: Orange Free State 33-16 Western Province, Bloemfontein
1977: Northern Transvaal 27-12 Orange Free State, Pretoria
1978: Orange Free State 9-13 Northern Transvaal, Bloemfontein
1979: Western Province 15-15 Northern Transvaal, Cape Town
1980: Northern Transvaal 39-9 Western Province, in Pretoria
1981: Northern Transvaal 23-6 Orange Free State, Pretoria
1982: Western Province 24-9 Northern Transvaal, Cape Town
1983: Northern Transvaal 3-9 Western Province, Pretoria
1984: Western Province 19-9 Natal, Cape Town
1985: Western Province 22-15 Northern Transvaal, Cape Town
1986: Western Province 22-9 Transvaal, Cape Town
1987: Transvaal 18-24 Northern Transvaal, Johannesburg
1988: Northern Transvaal 19-18 Western Province, Pretoria
1989: Western Province 16-16 Northern Transvaal, Cape Town
1990: Northern Transvaal 12-18 Natal, Pretoria
1991: Northern Transvaal 27-15 Transvaal, Pretoria
1992: Transvaal 13-14 Natal, Johannesburg
1993: Natal 15-21 Transvaal, Durban
1994: Orange Free State 33-56, Transvaal, Bloemfontein
1995: Natal 25-17 Western Province, Durban
1996: Transvaal 15-33 Natal, Johannesburg
1997: Western Province 14-12 Free State Cheetahs, Cape Town
1998: Blue Bulls 24-20 Western Province, Pretoria
1999: Natal Sharks 9-32 Golden Lions, Durban
2000: Natal Sharks 15-25 Western Province, Durban
2001: Western Province 29-24 Natal Sharks, Cape Town
2002: Golden Lions 7-31 Blue Bulls, Johannesburg
2003: Blue Bulls 40-19 Natal Sharks, Pretoria
2004: Blue Bulls 42-33 Free State Cheetahs, Pretoria
2005: Blue Bulls 25-29 Free State Cheetahs, Pretoria
2006: Free State Cheetahs 28-28 Blue Bulls, Bloemfontein
2007: Free State Cheetahs 20-18 Golden Lions, Bloemfontein
2008: Sharks 14-9 Blue Bulls, Durban
2009: Blue Bulls 36-24 Free State Cheetahs, Pretoria
2010: Sharks 30-10 Western Province, Durban
2011: Golden Lions 42-16 Sharks, Johannesburg
2012: Sharks 18-25 Western Province, Durban
2013: Western Province 19-33 Sharks, Cape Town
2014: Western Province 19-16 Golden Lions, Cape Town
2015: Golden Lions 32-24 Western Province, Johannesburg
2016: Free State Cheetahs 36-16 Blue Bulls, Bloemfontein
2017: Sharks 21-33 Western Province, Durban
2018: Western Province 12-17 Sharks, Cape Town
2019: Free State Cheetahs 31-28 Golden Lions, Bloemfontein

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