Did you know that rugby is the national sport in New Zealand? It is popular across the entire country and is said to be associated with a sense of national identity- it unites the people from coast to coast. It has the largest following of all major sports in New Zealand. The All Blacks, the national rugby team, won their first world cup all the way back in 1987, and again, on home soil in 2011. Their third world cup victory was achieved in 2015, in England, which made the All Blacks the most successful team in the World Cup’s history. The team is known for their Haka, a Maori challenge. This dance is performed at the beginning of international games, and other teams, both national rugby and basketball, have adopted this tradition.
The three biggest leagues include:
- Super Rugby: which is an elite club competition in the southern hemisphere. This league includes teams from NZ and Australia, as well as South Africa. Argentina and Japan were added to the league in 2016. The games start in February and run until August, but there is a 3 week break in June for testing.
- Mitre 10 Cup is a semi-professional league that is played during winter and spring, from the beginning of August to the end of November.
- Heartland is a competition for amateurs, which allows young teams to develop.
- The Sevens has been the main driver in the sport since the creation of the series in 1999. They have won the series 12 times in 16 seasons.
The sport of rugby is well regarded and New Zealand is known for producing top tier teams as well as great players and even coaches. The talent comes from the natural affinity for the game as a result of it being so deeply embedded in the culture.