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Provincial Rugby

The passion and parochialism of provincial rugby has helped to give the game a special place in New Zealand’s social and sporting history. With the ITM Cup competition underway, we've lined up brief histories, highlights and quirky facts for each of New Zealand's 26 regional rugby teams 's latest feature delves into the passion and parochialism of provincial rugby which has given the game a special place in New Zealand’s social and sporting history. Over the last century the All Blacks have consistently set the benchmark in international rugby . The strength of New Zealand rugby at the international level has been based on a strong provincial game.

In amateur rugby’s heyday touring international teams coming to New Zealand would play in packed grounds all over the country. The local teams took these matches seriously and were determined to take the scalp of the visiting team. For players from provincial backwaters, victory over the touring Springboks or Lions might be their only crack at the ‘big time’. The history of rugby in this country is littered with famous victories against touring national sides.

As intense as these matches might be, the ultimate challenge for many local players often came in battles against neighbours. The Rundle Cup, contested between Buller and West Coast since 1911, for instance, represents in most years the annual highlight of the coast’s rugby calendar. Games in which teams competed for the ultimate symbol of rugby supremacy in this country, the Ranfurly Shield, could bring entire communities to a standstill. Players and matches became part of local folklore, helping to put even the smallest unions on the map. For this reason many New Zealanders firmly believe that no other country on earth truly ‘gets’ rugby as they do.

Updated on 23rd July 2015