When one looks back to our rugby history in the province, the KwaZulu-Natal Rugby Union (KZNRU) can be very proud of its achievements and indeed our heritage. No other tournament in KZN speaks more aptly to this proud heritage than that of the Murray Cup, which was founded in 1890, and which over the years has continued to prove its prestige and relevance in the hearts of the most die-hard rugby fans in our province.
The Murray Cup is named after Sir TK Murray, who was appointed in June 1890 as the first President of a newly formed rugby union in the province, which we today know as the KZNRU. It didn’t take long before the newly appointed President made his presence felt by presenting the newly formed Rugby Union with its first trophy, The Murray Cup. This trophy was to be used for a challenge/knockout competition, which is now the oldest knockout rugby competition in World Rugby.
Whilst the format of the competition has changed over the last 127 years of the Cups existence, it is important to note that from the inception of the competition, there has been that element of intrigue and prestige associated with the trophy that is competed for by the rugby clubs in KZN.
The clubs that originally participated in the tournament was based on a seeded draw and over the years the rule changed to accommodate 16 teams. In 2017, for this the 118th season of the competition, the tournament has come full circle and has returned to its roots. This year there will be a seeded draw with eight teams competing, thereby ensuring that the competition becomes more competitive and that the top clubs do not face each other in the early rounds of the competition.
The strongest team will face-off against the team ranked eighth. In another twist to the competition format, the lowest placed team will host the match at their home venue. The semi-final and final will be played at one venue, which this year will be hosted by the Bidvest Insurance Crusaders.
SA Home Loans Durban Collegians won the coveted trophy for the first time in 14 years, in 2016, and will clearly be looking to retain the title. Of the clubs participating in this year’s competition eThekwini Refractories Amanzimtoti, Mancosa Zululand Rhinos, Bidvest Insurance Crusaders, SA Home Loans Durban Collegians and College Rovers have all had their names engraved on the trophy.
In the last 38 years, College Rovers have laid claim to the trophy on 12 occasions, followed closely behind by Collegians with 11 wins. Crusaders have last won the trophy back in 2003 and will want to change this in 2017. Zululand Rhinos, who will celebrate their centenary in 2019, have had a single win back in 2008, while Amanzimtoti achieved the honour of lifting the Cup for the first time in 2014.
Over the years, the success of the tournament has been made possible by valued sponsors, who have committed their resources and funds to this prestigious tournament. This year High-Tech Ink and Cell C, join Castle Lager as the associate sponsors of the competition.
Could this be a year of surprises, with a new winner laying claim to the historic trophy?…. Only time will tell. Let’s play!!!