Super Rugby franchise areas

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The Super Rugby competition in rugby union, including teams from Argentina, Australia, Japan, New Zealand and South Africa is based on a "franchise" system of teams. The original member countries – Australia, New Zealand and South Africa – all have several regional franchises, while the expansion countries – Argentina and Japan – have one franchise each. This article provides specific detail as to the areas covered by each Super Rugby team.


Argentina has a single franchise, which participates in the South African Conference. It was included in Super Rugby for the 2016 Super Rugby season and represents all of Argentine Rugby Union; the team consists of players from various teams that participate in the Campeonato Argentino and the Nacional de Clubes, which involves clubs from URBA and from the Torneo del Interior.

Conference Club Location Feeder Area(s)
Regional and club competitions
Home Ground(s) First season Championships
South Africa Jaguares Buenos Aires Campeonato Argentino and Nacional de Clubes Estadio José Amalfitani 2016 0


5 super rugby franchises of Australia and their colours
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In the past, Australia did not have a continent-wide rugby competition but structured the game around regional club competitions. The five Australian Super Rugby franchises have evolved from traditional state and territory representative sides. In 2007 the Australian Rugby Union launched the ARC (a national competition like the Currie Cup and the ITM Cup), in order to bridge the gap between Super Rugby and amateur club rugby. The ARU scrapped the competition after its inaugural season. From 2014, it launched the NRC, a similar competition. The rugby power-bases of New South Wales, Queensland and Australian Capital Territory are joined by Australian rules football strongholds Victoria and Western Australia as the franchise locations:

Conference Club Location Feeder Area(s)
Regional club competitions and NRC teams
Home Ground(s) First season Championships
Brumbies Canberra Principal Regional club Competition:

ACTRU Premier Division (ACT and Southern NSW)
NRC team:

1996 2 (2001, 2004)
2 Australian Conference (2013)
Melbourne Rebels Melbourne Principal Regional club Competition:

Dewar Shield (Victoria)
NRC team:

2011 0
New South Wales Waratahs Sydney Principal Regional club Competition:

Shute Shield (Central and Northern New South Wales)
NRC teams:

1996 1 (2014)
2 Australian Conference (2014, 2015)
Queensland Reds Brisbane Principal Regional club Competition:

Queensland Premier Rugby (Queensland)
NRC teams:

1996 1 Super 6 (1992)
2 Super 10 (1994,1995)
1 (2011)
2 Australian Conference (2011, 2012)
Western Force Perth Principal Regional club Competition:

RugbyWA Premier Grade (Western Australia)
NRC team:

2006 0

This leaves three states and territories which do not have a franchise, but only a regional club competition:

  • South Australia — a substantial market with Australian rules football as the main sport, although the Adelaide Sevens attract a sustainable amount of interest. The South Australian Rugby Union does have an arrangement with the Melbourne Rebels for its players to be eligible for that franchise's academy team.
  • Tasmania — a small market and not geographically concentrated. Australian rules football is the main football code. Melbourne Rebels could be extended, in the future, into Tasmania.
  • Northern Territory — Australia's least populous state or territory, with no other major league sporting teams based in it.

Queensland Reds versus NSW Waratahs is the oldest and most fierce rivalry. ACT Brumbies also have the Waratahs as their main rival. The Force and Rebels are a new rivalry according to Stuart Fazakerley – earlier the teams were also rivals for a Super Rugby franchise, which was given to the Force, in 2004.[1]


Japan has a single franchise called the Sunwolves, which participates in the South African Conference. It was included in Super Rugby for the 2016 Super Rugby season and represents all of Japan and its major rugby club competition, the Top League.

Conference Club Location Feeder Area(s)
Regional and club competitions
Home Ground(s) First season Championships
South Africa Sunwolves Tokyo Top League Chichibunomiya Rugby Stadium, Tokyo
Singapore National Stadium, Singapore
2016 0

New Zealand[edit]

The 5 Super 14 teams in New Zealand.
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Map of all provincial unions within New Zealand.

In New Zealand, each of the country's five Super Rugby teams are linked with several unions in the country's two domestic competitions, the professional ITM Cup and amateur Heartland Championship. For all practical purposes, all Super Rugby players will be drawn from the ITM Cup sides. The specific unions linked to each franchise are:

Conference Club Location Feeder Area(s)
(Mitre 10 Cup and Heartland Championship Provinces)
Home Ground(s) First season Championships
New Zealand
Blues Auckland Mitre 10 Cup Provinces:
1996 3 (1996, 1997, 2003)
Chiefs Hamilton Mitre 10 Cup Provinces:

Heartland Championship Provinces:

1996 2 (2012, 2013)
2 New Zealand Conference (2012, 2013)
Crusaders Christchurch Mitre 10 Cup Provinces:

Heartland Championship Provinces:

1996 7 (1998, 1999, 2000, 2002, 2005, 2006 2008)
2 New Zealand Conference (2011, 2014)
Highlanders Dunedin Mitre 10 Cup Provinces:

Heartland Championship Provinces:

1996 1 (2015)
Hurricanes Wellington Mitre 10 Cup Provinces:

Heartland Championship Provinces:

1996 1 (2016)
1 New Zealand Conference (2015)
1 Australasian Group (2016)

South Africa[edit]

the super rugby franchises in South Africa including the southern kings catchment.
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Map of provincial teams and their unions within South Africa.

South Africa operates its Super Rugby system in basically the same manner as in New Zealand, with each franchise linked with one or more unions in the country's domestic competition, the Currie Cup and the Vodacom Cup (its development competition). During the 1996 and 1997 Super 12 seasons, South Africa entered their 4 top finishers in the previous season's Currie Cup. The franchises were created for the 1998 season.

The country had five franchises. The four teams from the Super 12 era—the Bulls, Cats (now the Lions), Sharks and Stormers—were joined in 2006 by the Cheetahs. Their identities are largely based around the 5 traditional powers of the Currie Cup competition; the Blue Bulls, Golden Lions, Sharks, Western Province and Free State Cheetahs respectively. From 2016 South Africa has six franchises with the definitive entry of the Southern Kings.

The unions linked to each franchise are:

Conference Franchise Location Feeder Area(s)
(Currie Cup Provinces)
Home Ground(s) First season Championships
South Africa
Bulls Pretoria Blue Bulls (Pretoria and Limpopo Province)
Pumas (Mpumalanga)
Boland Cavaliers (Northern Western Cape[2]
Border Bulldogs (Eastern Eastern Cape)[3]
Loftus Versfeld Stadium 1996 3 (2007, 2009, 2010)
1 South African Conference (2013)
Cheetahs Bloemfontein Free State Cheetahs (central and western Free State)
Griffons (northern Free State)
Free State Stadium 2006 0
Lions Johannesburg Golden Lions (Johannesburg)
Griquas (Northern Cape)
Emirates Airline Park 1996 (as Cats) 1 Super 10 (1993)
1 African Group (2016)
Sharks Durban Sharks (KwaZulu-Natal)
Leopards (North West)
Kings Park Stadium 1996 1 South African Conference (2014)
Southern Kings Port Elizabeth Eastern Province Kings (western Eastern Cape) Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium 2013 0
Stormers Cape Town Western Province (Cape Town metro area)
SWD Eagles (eastern Western Cape)
Newlands Stadium 1996 3 South African Conference (2011, 2012, 2015)

Southern and Eastern Cape Region Franchise[edit]

The proposed sixth team were supposed to be entrenched in the 2007 and 2008 Super 14 seasons and were to draw from the Southern and Eastern Cape Region (SEC) and based in Port Elizabeth. They became a major bone of contention in South African rugby, when it was proposed originally, that the entry of the Spears would mean a promotion/relegation system would be put in place in 2006 to determine which team would not participate in the following season's Super 14. The entrenchment of the Spears proved highly controversial; after allegations of financial mismanagement and poor results against other South African sides, the South African Rugby Union (SARU) decided on 19 April 2006 to scrap its original plan to admit the Spears in 2007.

The High Court of South Africa gave the Spears a potential reprieve in August 2006 when it ruled that the Spears had a valid contract with SARU and its commercial arm, SA Rugby, to enter both the Currie Cup and Super 14. Both the SARU and SA Rugby planned to appeal this decision. In November 2006, all parties involved reached a settlement; the Spears dropped their suit and abandoned any attempts to enter the Super 14.[4]

Since the Spears never joined Super Rugby, the SARU and SA Rugby had to determine how to reincorporate players from the Spears region to the other franchises. In January 2009, the SARU announced that a new SEC franchise, also to be based in Port Elizabeth, would be launched in June 2009 to coincide with the arrival of the British and Irish Lions for a midweek tour match in the city. The franchise, a joint venture between the Eastern Province and Border unions, was created with the goal of an eventual place in Super Rugby, although the entry date was uncertain, pending agreement with the other SANZAR partners. SARU also confirmed that the franchise would not assume the Southern Spears name;[5] the team was later announced as the Southern Kings.

The Southern Kings were confirmed to be drawing from the Spears' former area with the announcement of their inaugural squad in 2009. Most of the players in the Kings' debut match against the British and Irish Lions were affiliated with the team's co-owners, the Border and Eastern Province unions (the latter being the operators of the Eastern Province Kings), but South Western Districts (operators of the Eagles) were also involved. The inaugural Kings side also included players from the provinces of Western Province and Boland within the Stormers' area.

On 27 January 2012, it was confirmed that the Southern Kings would join Super Rugby in 2013.[6] It was confirmed that they would replace the Lions as South Africa's fifth club. After playing just a single season, the Lions returned in 2014 and 2015, before a further Super Rugby expansion saw the Kings being included on a permanent basis from 2016 onwards.

Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ With a Rebel yell, a new rivalry born - The Roar, Stuart Fazakerley, April 5, 2011
  2. ^ "Vodacom Bulls extend Super Rugby Family: Boland and Pumas" (Press release). Bulls. 13 May 2016. Retrieved 13 May 2016. 
  3. ^ "Vodacom Bulls confirm Border as part of Super Rugby Family" (Press release). Bulls. 20 May 2016. Retrieved 20 May 2016. 
  4. ^ "Spears abandon their Super conquest". 2006-11-16. Retrieved 2006-11-22. 
  5. ^ "Launch date set for SE Cape team" (Press release). South African Rugby Union. 2009-01-13. Retrieved 2009-01-13. 
  6. ^ "Southern Kings confirmed in Vodacom Super Rugby". South African Rugby Union. 27 January 2012. Archived from the original on 6 June 2016. Retrieved 6 June 2016. 

See also[edit]

External links[edit]