The historic Gold Cup has been brought out of retirement and painstakingly restored as the "Holy Grail"for club rugby players in the Cell C Community Cup, the South African Rugby Union (Saru) announced on Wednesday after signing a three-year deal with the cellular communications company.
The nine-carat gold trophy is one of the most expensive and historically significant trophies in the Saru collection.
It had been out of use since 2002 until Saru decided to take it out of mothballs and make it the prestigious new trophy for the Cell C Community Cup.
"The Community Cup was borne out of a need to revive and modernise club rugby in South Africa," Saru CEO Jurie Roux said in a statement.
"We followed a very extensive research and consultation process over a period of three years before arriving at the tournament format. We visited every province and listened to what ordinary club people had to say. This is therefore as much their tournament as it is ours."
'History, tradition, heritage and diversity'
Citing the significance of the trophy, Roux added: "The story of South African rugby can be told through the iconic trophies that our teams have held aloft over the years. The Cell C Community Cup is all about history, tradition, heritage and diversity, and our challenge therefore was to find a 'Holy Grail' for club rugby that was on a par with the Webb Ellis Cup or Absa Currie Cup."
Using a trophy with history behind it lent something extra to the new competition, Rous reckoned: "An historic trophy is a magical thing. It gives a voice to all the players that have gone before, and every time a new team claims it, a new chapter is written. Thousands of boys dream of winning the Absa Currie Cup or Webb Ellis Cup but, for those who never reach the professional ranks, we want the Gold Cup to represent the same level of importance and aspiration."
He said the reintroduction of the Gold Cup was also an important step in Saru's mission to tell the full story of South Africa's rugby history Â– a task that will gain further momentum later this year with the opening of a revamped and world-class Springbok Experience rugby museum in Cape Town.
National Club Championships
The old Saru National Club Championships had a proud history, with Stellenbosch University winning the first of 12 titles by beating Durban Collegians 28-20 in inaugural final played at Kings Park in Durban in 1975. But the advent of the professional era and the FNB Varsity Cup meant that the week-long event had become outdated and in urgent need of a revamp, Roux explained.
The final Club Champs, held in Rustenburg last September, symbolised the transition from old to new as it was also the first time in the tournament's 38-year history that university teams were not involved.
Jonsson College Rovers of KZN, whose home ground is situated just a stone's throw away from Mr Price Kings Park, were the 38th and final winners to have their names engraved on the trophy after beating Pretoria Police 23-10 in the final.
College Rovers' victory earned the Durban-based club the right to host the opening match of the inaugural Cell C Community Cup.
The Gold Cup
The Gold Cup was made in England nearly a century ago. It was originally intended for the winners of an annual air race between London and Cape Town but found its way into rugby as the interprovincial trophy of the former South African Rugby Football Federation (Sarff) from 1961-74. The last winners were the Tygerberg Rugby Union.
When Sarff became part of the SA Rugby Board (Sarb) in 1978, the Gold Cup became an interprovincial competition involving all affiliated units of the new enlarged body until 1991.
In the professional era, the Gold Cup was awarded to the South section winners of the old Provincial A competition until 10 years ago, with Free State and WP sharing the trophy when it was last contested in 2002.
The Gold Cup was bought from a Cape Town jeweller in 1960 for UK£1 000 and remains the only major trophy bought with funds raised by ordinary club players.