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Grassroots Structure of New Zealand Rugby

Grassroots Structure of New Zealand Rugby

For most people, New Zealand rugby is All Blacks. For rugby fans, there are five more Super Rugby representatives. For rugby lovers, there are a few more top regional NPC teams. We will try to analyze their structure from the very bottom level.

Tournaments and Championships

Currently, grassroots rugby in New Zealand is organized in 26 regional rugby unions. The 14 largest are competing in the Bunnings NPC tournament. Twelve smaller unions are in the Heartland Championship. We will start our analysis from the south to the north of New Zealand, detailing the unions involved in Super Rugby. In the end, understanding the structure of NZ rugby is as easy as if you choose casino in New Zealand.

1)    Highlanders

Highlanders are represented by the regional alliances from Southland, Otago, and North Otago. Southland has 28 amateur squads, five of which have two squads. Thirty-three amateur clubs are divided into four divisions of 6-8 teams based on their level. Otago allows for the division into the Metro and County leagues. There are 16 representatives in the Metro. Five of them have three squads, another five have two squads. There are 16 teams in the County, divided into two divisions according to the geographical principle.

2)    Crusaders

The regional alliances that make up the Crusaders include Canterbury, Tasman, Buller, South Canterbury, Mid Canterbury, and West Coast teams. The Tasman union appeared as a result of a merge of two small unions – Nelson Bay and Marlborough. Twenty-eight teams are divided into the Premier Division (11 best in the region), and the second division. The Canterbury region is represented by three unions: Canterbury, South Canterbury, and Mid Canterbury. The West Coast Teams represent the sum of the Buller and West Coast clubs.

3)    Hurricanes

Hurricanes are formed by three large regional alliances – Wellington, Manawatu, Hawke’s Bay, and five small ones: East Coast, Horowhenua-Kapiti, Poverty Bay, Wairarapa-Bush, Wanganui. Wellington represents the city of the same name and the surrounding areas in which 17 clubs are based, many of which have 2-3 lineups. The Manawatu Union brings together clubs from Palmerston and the two nearby neighborhoods where 15 multi-roster clubs are based.

4)    Chiefs

In the central part of the Northern Island, several alliances form the Chiefs: Waikato, Counties Manukau, Bay of Plenty, Taranaki, as well as two small alliances, namely, King Country and Thames Valley. Waikato, one of the most numerous regions, has 77 teams (28 clubs), divided into nine tournaments. Home of the Barrett brothers, Taranaki has 15 clubs (33 teams) divided into four divisions. The Bay of Plenty union represents the region of the same name: there are 32 clubs in total.

5)    Blues

New Zealand’s northernmost franchise, The Blues is formed by three large alliances – Auckland, North Harbor, and Northland. Auckland represents the historic downtown, which is home to 20 clubs (57 teams) that create major tournaments. North Harbor brings together 12 clubs in the northern suburbs of Auckland, which split from the Auckland union in 1985. Northland represents the northernmost (tropical) part of the country. Due to its size, the union is divided into six territorial sub-unions uniting 38 representatives.

As we can see, the density of amateur teams in New Zealand is even across the country and varies on average from 3 to 5 thousand people per one amateur club. In this way, we can evaluate the grassroots structure behind each Super Rugby team. The smallest number of population, and therefore amateur squads in the structure of the Highlanders.

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