|Current season or competition:
|No. of teams||14 ITM Cup
12 Heartland Championship
|Most recent champion(s)||Waikato (9 titles)|
|Most titles||Auckland (16 titles)|
|TV partner(s)||Sky Sport|
The Ranfurly Shield, colloquially known as the Log o' Wood, is a trophy in New Zealand's domestic rugby union competition. First played for in 1904, the Ranfurly Shield is based on a challenge system, rather than a league or knockout competition as with most football trophies. The holding union must defend the Shield in challenge matches, and if a challenger defeats them, they become the new holder of the Shield.
The Shield is currently held by Waikato, who won it from Taranaki on 3 October 2012. Although the professional era of rugby has seen competitions such as the ITM Cup and Super Rugby detracting from the pre-eminence of the Ranfurly Shield, many still regard it as the greatest prize in New Zealand domestic rugby, thanks to its long history, the fact that every challenge is a sudden-death defence of the Shield, and that any team, no matter how lowly, has a chance to win.
In 1901 the Governor of New Zealand, the Earl of Ranfurly, announced that he would present a cup to the New Zealand Rugby Football Union, to be used as the prize in a competition of their choosing. When the trophy, which actually turned out to be a shield, arrived, the NZRFU decided that it would be awarded to the union with the best record in the 1902 season, and thenceforth be the subject of a challenge system. Auckland, unbeaten in 1902, were presented with the shield. The shield was also designed as a trophy for football, not rugby. This was because the picture in the centrepiece was a football one. The picture was modified by adding goal posts on the football goal that comprised the picture, to create a rugby scene.
Auckland were on tour in 1903 and did not play any home games, and thus did not have to defend the Shield. Their first defence was against Wellington in 1904, and was unsuccessful.
Since the introduction of the National Provincial Championship in 1976, all home games a Shield-holder plays in the NPC or its successors, the ITM Cup and Heartland Championship, are automatically challenge matches.
Auckland hold the record for the greatest number of consecutive Shield defences which stands at 61 matches between 14 September 1985 and 18 September 1993. During this period Auckland took the Shield on tour to provincial unions that, mainly for financial reasons, would be unlikely to be able to mount a challenge for the trophy. While dismissed by some critics, usually because of the one-sided scores, it was widely regarded as a success by those involved.
In 1994 when Canterbury wrestled the Shield from Waikato, the shield was in battered condition, with large cracks, chips and peeled varnish. Nearly a century of use had taken its toll. Canterbury player Chris England, skilled in woodwork, fully renovated the Shield, bringing it back once again into pristine condition.
The Shield holder at the end of each season is required to accept at least seven challenges for the following year. All home games during league play, but not during knockout playoffs, in the ITM Cup or Heartland Championship are automatic challenges. The remaining shield defences must be made up of challenges from unions in the other domestic competition. For example, since North Harbour, an Air New Zealand Cup (now ITM Cup) team, held the Shield at the end of the 2006 Cup season despite losing their home quarter-final to Otago, they were forced to defend the Shield against Heartland Championship teams during the 2007 pre-season. Having successfully done so, all their home fixtures in the round-robin phase were Shield defences until they lost the shield to Waikato.
The Shield-holder is never forced to defend the Shield in an away match, although they may choose to, as Auckland, for example, did on a number of occasions during their record tenure as Shield-holder between 1985 and 1993. More recently, Auckland played both their mandatory defences against Heartland teams in 2008 on the road.
If a challenger successfully takes the Shield, all of their home matches for the rest of the season are defences of it.
Proposed rules changes 
In August 2008, the New Zealand Rugby Union released a competitions review that proposed dramatic changes to the Ranfurly Shield rules:
- Once a team has successfully defended the Shield four times, all of the holder's subsequent matches in league play would be mandatory defences, whether home or away. The Shield, however, will not be at stake in semifinals or finals.
- If an Air New Zealand Cup team holds the Shield at the end of the league season, that season's winners of the Meads Cup and Lochore Cup, the two trophies contested in the second-level Heartland Championship, will receive automatic challenges in the following year.
The changes were not implemented, but did receive support from Auckland, which held the Shield when the NZRU released its report.
Tally table 
|Ranfurly Shield Past Holders|
|Wellington||6 August 1904||4|
|Auckland||26 August 1905||23|
|Taranaki||16 August 1913||6|
|Wellington||10 September 1914||15|
|Southland||15 September 1920||1|
|Wellington||10 September 1921||2|
|Hawke's Bay||9 August 1922||24|
|Wairarapa||3 June 1927||2|
|Manawhenua||6 August 1927||2|
|Canterbury||7 September 1927||1|
|Wairarapa||18 July 1928||8|
|Southland||31 August 1929||3|
|Wellington||3 September 1930||1|
|Canterbury||22 August 1931||15|
|Hawke's Bay||16 August 1934||2|
|Auckland||8 September 1934||1|
|Canterbury||10 August 1935||4|
|Otago||21 September 1935||8|
|Southland||31 July 1937||0|
|Otago||30 July 1938||5|
|Southland||10 September 1938||11|
|Otago||2 August 1947||18|
|Canterbury||16 August 1950||0|
|Wairarapa||2 September 1950||0|
|South Canterbury||16 September 1950||0|
|North Auckland||30 September 1950||2|
|Waikato||18 August 1951||6|
|Auckland||9 August 1952||0|
|Waikato||23 August 1952||6|
|Wellington||1 August 1953||5|
|Canterbury||19 September 1953||23|
|Wellington||22 September 1956||4|
|Otago||24 August 1957||1|
|Taranaki||28 September 1957||13|
|Southland||5 September 1959||0|
|Auckland||23 September 1959||2|
|North Auckland||20 August 1960||1|
|Auckland||31 August 1960||25|
|Wellington||31 August 1963||0|
|Taranaki||7 September 1963||15|
|Auckland||11 September 1965||3|
|Waikato||27 August 1966||0|
|Hawke's Bay||24 September 1966||21|
|Canterbury||27 September 1969||9|
|Auckland||28 August 1971||1|
|North Auckland||18 September 1971||6|
|Auckland||26 August 1972||0|
|Canterbury||5 September 1972||2|
|Marlborough||28 July 1973||6|
|South Canterbury||17 August 1974||1|
|Wellington||3 September 1974||1|
|Auckland||21 September 1974||10|
|Manawatu||21 August 1976||13|
|North Auckland||12 September 1978||5|
|Auckland||21 September 1979||6|
|Waikato||7 September 1980||8|
|Wellington||1 August 1981||4|
|Canterbury||18 September 1982||25|
|Auckland||14 September 1985||61|
|Waikato||18 September 1993||5|
|Canterbury||3 September 1994||9|
|Auckland||23 September 1995||3|
|Taranaki||24 August 1996||1|
|Waikato||8 September 1996||1|
|Auckland||4 October 1996||6|
|Waikato||5 October 1997||21|
|Canterbury||23 September 2000||23|
|Auckland||11 October 2003||2|
|Bay of Plenty||15 August 2004||1|
|Canterbury||5 September 2004||14|
|North Harbour||24 September 2006||3|
|Waikato||24 August 2007||0|
|Canterbury||1 September 2007||1|
|Auckland||29 September 2007||5|
|Wellington||20 September 2008||4|
|Canterbury||29 August 2009||4|
|Southland||22 October 2009||6|
|Canterbury||9 October 2010||2|
|Southland||23 July 2011||2|
|Taranaki||24 August 2011||7|
|Waikato||3 October 2012||1|
|Ranfurly Shield Table|
|16||Bay of Plenty||1||1|
correct as of 13 October 2012
Notes and references 
- "Auckland accepts two Ranfurly Shield challenges". New Zealand Rugby Union. 2007-12-06. Retrieved 2008-01-15.
- NZPA (2008-08-06). "Holders back proposed changes to Ranfurly Shield". Scrum.com. Retrieved 2008-08-30.
- Rampant Aucks take the 2007 shield
- Ranfurly Shield at nzrugby.com (history, stories, audio highlights, trivia)