ANDRE-PIERRE CRONJE picks out five of the most prestigious trophies in rugby.
Before we start, a word on selection. The trophies I’ve chosen are those I consider to carry the most meaning for rugby fans and players. They may not necessarily be the most ‘difficult’ to win nor awarded in the strongest competitions. Instead, they are the trophies most steeped in history and prestige.
Contested between England and Scotland, the Calcutta Cup is the oldest international trophy in rugby, dating back to 1879. The trophy is named after the Calcutta Football Club which, upon its disbandment in 1878, melted down the remaining club funds (silver rupees) and forged the Calcutta Cup. The cup was presented to the RFU with the condition that it was contested annually.
The body is finely engraved with three king cobras forming the handles. An elephant, said to be modelled on the viceroy of India’s own stock, adorns the lid.
Most South Africans know the Currie Cup tournament as the oldest provincial tournament in professional rugby. Few, however, know the origins of the trophy itself.
The cup actually comes from the first overseas rugby team to tour South Africa in 1891, the British Isles. Among the cargo the touring team brought with them a golden cup given to them by Sir Donald Currie (the owner of the shipping company that carried them to South Africa).
Currie instructed the tourists to award the trophy to the team that gave them the best game. And so Griqualand West became the first holders of the Currie Cup. They handed the trophy to the South African Rugby Board and it became the trophy for the Currie Cup competition.
Webb Ellis Cup
The pinnacle of rugby, the Webb Ellis Cup has been awarded since 1987 to the team that wins the Rugby World Cup. It is named after William Webb Ellis, the purported founder of the game of rugby union.
There are, in fact, two Webb Ellis Cups. One is a cup made in 1906 by London-based silversmiths Carrington and Co. The other is a 1986 replication of that cup specifically for use as the trophy awarded at the World Cup.
The 1906 cup is based on a design by Paul de Lamerie – ‘the King’s silversmith’ – from 1736. One handle bears the head of a satyr, and the other that of a nymph.
Known in New Zealand as the ‘Log o’ Wood’, the Ranfurly Shield is one of the most esteemed prizes in New Zealand domestic rugby. It was introduced in 1901 when the governor of New Zealand (the fifth Earl of Ranfurly) presented it to the New Zealand Rugby Football Union for use in a competition of their choosing.
The shield is unique in rugby in that it is awarded based on a challenge system (similar to boxing belts). If the team in possession of the shield loses a home match, it then passes on to their opponents. The Ranfurly Shield was first contested for in 1904 where it was unsuccessfully defended by Auckland against Wellington.
The shield itself was actually designed for soccer and not rugby. The scene depicted in the centre of the shield had to be modified by adding goalposts, alterations still visible today.
The Bledisloe Cup is contested between New Zealand and Australia and has been since the 1930s. The first iteration of the competition is debated, with Australia claiming it was in 1931 and New Zealand a year later.
The Bledisloe Cup is named after Lord Bledisloe who presented a trophy to the New Zealand Rugby Union to be competed for by New Zealand and Australia. The cup was designed by Nelson Isaac and crafted by Walker and Hall in London. It is physically the biggest trophy in rugby.