History of the PGC trophy and the competition
For now, let’s focus on where this trophy, one of the oldest in South Africa, came from.
Gustav Imroth, very actice in all sports on the Rand, presented the trophy to the newly establised Transvaal Rugby Football Union in 1889 for competition by rugby clubs playing on the Witwatersrand and in Pretoria.
There were a number of clubs around in the late 1880s
The origin of rugby in the then Transvaal largely is linked to the discovery of gold on the Witwatersrand.
Like the mining towns that sprang up in other countries, Johannesburg was a rough and disorganized place. It was populated by white miners from other continents, African tribesmen who did the bulk of unskilled mine work, a very large number of European prostitutes, gangsters, impoverished Afrikaners and tradesmen.
With few activities to occupy their spare time other than can-can girls and the rough pubs, many of the ‘newcomers’ to the City of Gold joined or formed clubs.
In 1885 Potchefstroom Dorp was the first club to be formed. Then followed Rand Wanderers, Pirates, Pretoria (1888), May Consolidated, the latter becoming Diggers in 1894 when merging with Main Reef, and West Rand. West Rand later became Krugersdorp and then Harlequins.
Kaffrarians (later called Olympics and then Rovers), and in 2012 Pretoria, are the only two of these forerunners that did not survive. Harlequins now lives on after the recent amalgamation with Pretoria Police only a few weeks ago.
The Transvaal Rugby Football Union was formed in 1889, the same year as the SA Rugby Football Board.
Pretoria Rugby Club, which became defunct in 2012, became the first Transvaal champions when they beat Pirates 1–0 in the final of the inaugural provincial club competition at the Wanderers grounds at Kruger Park in 1889.
Pirates then won the Imroth Trophy, as it was originally called, five years in a row from 1890 to 1894. The trophy became theirs after their first hat-trick of wins, and they returned it to the Transvaal Rugby Football Union (forerunner of the Golden Lions Rugby Union) for purposes of the club competition that has since been known as the Pirates Grand Challenge Competition.
Winners of the Pirates Grand Challenge trophy
A look at the winners of the Pirates Grand Challenge shows that there is a good spread of winners through the years.
It is also noticeable that Pirates, Diggers and Roodepoort have won the competition in “surges” – and the latest winners following this trend are the Pukke, who won the competition six times – five of them consecutively – in the first seven years after joining the Golden Lions leagues in 2002, and UJ who won it six times in the seven years between 2010 to 2016.
Between these two university sides, they have 14 of the five titles from 2002, with Roodepoort spoiling a varsity full-house in 2014.
Three clubs hold the record of five successive titles. Diggers achieved it twice (1895-1899 and 1958-62). The latter won the title 11 times in the 15 years from 1948-1962 and shared it once.
Having lost it PGC status, Diggers languished in the Senior Grand Challenge Competition but are back in the PGC in 2017.
The other two clubs are Pirates (1890-1894) and Pukke (2002-2006) while Roodepoort won the competition eight times in 10 years between 1985 and 1994.
Diggers have been winners on 26 occasions and twice shared the trophy twice.
The club is also listed as having won the union’s one-off Senior Competition in 1915, but the history of the University of Pretoria Rugby Club by DH Heydenrych claims that Diggers won the Rand Division and Tukkies the Pretoria Division, with the students winning the final against Diggers at the Wanderers 14-12 to become the (all-over) Transvaal Champion.
1900-1901 No competition (Anglo Boer War)
1915 Senior Competition:
Diggers (Rand champion), Tukkies (Pretoria & Transvaal champion)
1916-1918 No competition (World War I)
1919 Rebuild Competition:
1921-1922 Simmer & Jack
1923 Pretoria & ERPM
1931 Simmer & Jack
1932 Pretoria Police
1933 New State Areas
1934-1937 Pretoria Police
1939 New States Areas
1940-1945 No competition (World War II)
1946 Springs, Pirates, Brakpan
1947 West Rand
1952 West Rand
1956 Diggers & West Rand
1965 Wesrand & Vereeniging
1967 Wits University
1972 Vereeniging & Diggers
1979 RAU & Alberton
1983 Alberton & Wanderers
2002-2006 NWU Pukke
2007 University of Johannesburg
2008-2009 NWU Pukke
2010-2012 University of Johannesburg
2013 Roodepoort (No final played)
2014-2016 University of Johannesburg