Get right into rugby in New Zealand

by Stephanie - 17/03/2011 14:40:00

The haka is powerful stuff.
Image: Jo Caird/New Zealand Tourism

New Zealand will proudly host the Rugby World Cup in September and October this year, but if you don’t want to wait until then to see some rugby action there are plenty of games happening to tide you over.  

It doesn’t matter if it is a city, small town or in the countryside surrounded by paddocks, but New Zealand’s landscape isn’t quite right without a set of rugby goal posts. The game was introduced to New Zeland in 1870 by a young man called Charles Monro. Monro was born near Nelson, and spent some time studying in England before returning to his home country. He introduced the game of rugby to friends in Nelson, and the first rugby game in New Zealand was played at Nelson’s Botanical Reserve. A sign now stands on the ground to commemorate the game.

Rugby is New Zealand’s national sport, and when it is the national team, the All Blacks, on the field the whole country gets behind them.

One thing that is different about a rugby game with the All Blacks is the haka, a traditional Maori challenge dance which the All Blacks perform before playing an international team. The most famous haka used is "Ka Mate", originally composed by the Maori chief Te Rauparaha of Ngāti Toa to celebrate a narrow escape from death.

Here are the games coming up before the Rugby World Cup in September.

Rebel Sport Super 14

The Rebel Sport Super 14 between Australia, New Zealand and South Africa is the largest rugby championship in the southern hemisphere. A total of 14 teams play 13 games each to decide the best four teams. Then it is the semi-finals to decide the two finalists. The final is played at the highest ranked winner’s home ground. Games run from February until the end of May at venues in all three countries. New Zealand games are played in Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington, Christchurch and Invercargill.

Tri Nations and Bledisloe Cup

New Zealand also competes annually with Australia (the Wallabies) and South Africa (the Springboks) in the Tri Nation Series, a tough competition that has been running since 1996. The games played between Australia and New Zealand also determine the winner of the Bledisloe Cup each year.

The Tri Nations rugby tournament kicks off with the All Blacks playing South Africa in Auckland on 10 July. Other New Zealand matches are scheduled for 17 July in Wellington (vs South Africa) and 7 August in Christchurch (vs Australia).

There are usually eight games in the Tri Nations, but because of the world cup being held in New Zealand the competition has been reduced to six.

Rugby World Cup

Twenty three centres are to host the teams in New Zealand - 16 in the North Island and seven in the South Island. If you’re going to be here for the entire time, you can do a grand tour of New Zealand while you follow your team!

The event is scheduled to be played over seven weekends from the weekend starting 10 September and culminating the weekend starting 22 October 2011.

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