Regional rugby

Page 1 – Introduction

King Country vs Hawke's Bay programme
King Country vs Hawke's Bay programme, 1969

The passion and parochialism of provincial rugby has helped give the game a special place in New Zealand’s social and sporting history. For more than a century the All Blacks have set the benchmark in international rugby. The strength of New Zealand rugby at the highest level has been based on a strong provincial game.

In amateur rugby’s heyday, international teams touring New Zealand played in packed grounds all over the country. The local teams took these matches seriously. For many players from the backblocks, a match against the touring Springboks or Lions was the pinnacle of their careers. The history of rugby in this country is littered with famous victories over touring international sides.

As intense as these matches could be, the ultimate challenge for many local players came in battles against neighbours. Since 1911, for instance, the annual contest between Buller and West Coast for the Rundle Cup has been the highlight of the local rugby calendar. Games in which teams competed for the ultimate symbol of rugby supremacy in this country, the Ranfurly Shield, brought entire communities to a standstill and put even the smallest unions on the map. Players and matches became part of local folklore. This is one reason why many New Zealanders believe that no other country truly ‘gets’ rugby as they do.

Tell us your regional rugby stories

On each of the regional rugby pages (see navigation on right) there is a 'Community contribution' area at the bottom where you can add your stories. We'd love to hear about games you have attended, quirky stories, or other memories of regional rugby you would like to share.

How to cite this page

'Regional rugby', URL:, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 7-Feb-2023