History - the early days
In 1986 NSW and Queensland played against Auckland, Canterbury and Wellington from New Zealand, as well as a composite Fiji side.
For five years the tournament was played, a South Pacific Championship or Super Six, which led to ‘expansion’ when South Africa re-entered the rugby world and it was reborn into the Super 10 in 1993, where it ran until 1995, prior to the game becoming professional.
In 1996 as SANZAR was formed, the Super 12 was created, a professional competition and the first official ‘international domestic’ tournament featuring the strongest teams – which would become franchises – across New Zealand, South Africa and Australia.
Five franchises were created in New Zealand, merging the 26 domestic unions. The Kiwi sides are representative of their 'catchment areas' (the collection of unions that make up the franchise). The three Australian teams were the traditional rugby states of New South Wales and Queensland and a new team from the ACT called the Brumbies. For the first three years of the competition, South Africa determined its sides via qualification in the Currie Cup, with the four semi-finalists from the previous season taking part, before they loosely followed the Kiwi model and created franchises from combined Currie Cup unions.
In 2006 Super 14 came into fruition, with the Western Force and Cheetahs joining the fold, naturally extending the round-robin regular season competition, while the Super Rugby Final’s Series format of the top four playing semi-finals continued.
In 2011, Super Rugby expanded to 15 teams - with the Melbourne Rebels the new franchise - and was split into three conferences, each with five teams and based in one of the three nations.
At the same time, the regular season expands to 16 matches with each team will playing a double round-robin within its home conference, and single matches against four teams from each of the other conferences.
The Finals Series expand to six teams, with the conference winners joined by the three non-winners with the most competition points without regard to conference affiliation. The two conference winners with the most competition points received a first-round bye.
In 2011 the Reds became the first Australian team outside the Brumbies to win a title, winning Super Rugby with a victory over the Crusaders in what was dubbed the battle of the hardship teams - with Queensland hit by floods and Christchurch rocked by a earthquake which disrupted both team's season.
The Chiefs went back-to-back the following two years with wins over the Sharks and Brumbies respectively, the Waratahs held the trophy aloft in 2014 with a thrilling win over the Crusaders while the Highlanders beat the Hurricanes to keep the trophy in the final season of Super Rugby as we knew it.
2016 - a bold new future
In 2016, the evolution of Super Rugby continues with three new sides introduced to an expanded four-conference, two-group model that boosts the rivalry and passion of previous seasons, driving Super Rugby into a rousing new era.
The Kings from South Africa return to the fray, along with the Jaguares from Argentina and the Sunwolves from Japan, taking Super Rugby to new places, new markets and new crowds.
The teams are arranged in four conferences within two groups.
The Australasian Group features the Australian and New Zealand Conferences while the South African Group features all of the teams from South Africa, plus the Sunwolves and Jaguares.
Each team will play a total of 15 regular season matches and have two byes.
At the completion of the Regular Season, a three-week Super Rugby Finals Series will take place involving the four conference winners, the next three best teams from Australasia and the next one best team from South Africa.
Teams will be seeded according to their log points and play a knock-out Finals Series with the higher-ranked team earning the right to play at home.
We've created a series of videos to explain what the new Super Rugby format means for each team. View the example of the defending champion Highlanders below, or click here to see other teams on our channel.
If the teams are tied at full-time in any Finals Series Match then the following will apply until a winner is found:
- After a five minute rest period, the extra time is played in two 10 minute periods with a two minute halftime;
- Before the extra time begins, the match referee will do a coin toss with the two captains one minute before the new kick-off. The winner of the coin toss decides if his team wants to kick-off or if his team wants to choose the side of the pitch it wants to play on for the first 10 minute period;
- For the second 10 minute period, the teams change sides and the team that did not kick off in the first period does so;
- Coaches are not permitted on the field during the rest period or halftime.
Sudden Death - if the match is still drawn at the end of extra time, the procedure will be:
- An up to 10 minute sudden death period is played after another five minute rest period;
- The first team to score (by a penalty, drop-goal or try) will be the winner;
- As for extra time, one minute before sudden death begins, the match referee will do a coin toss to choose which team kicks-off and on which side of the pitch.
Super Rugby at a glance
Expansion to 18 teams with the addition of the Kings from South Africa, Jaguares from Argentina and the Sunwolves from Japan;
Australasian Group: Australian Conference (Brumbies, Force, Rebels, Reds, Waratahs), New Zealand Conference (Blues, Chiefs, Crusaders Highlanders, Hurricanes)
South African Group: Africa Conference 1 (Bulls, Cheetahs, Stormers, Sunwolves), Africa Conference 2 (Jaguares Kings, Lions, Sharks)
15 Regular Season games per team (8 home/7 away or vice-versa over a two-year cycle)
Two byes per team
135 Regular Season and 7 Finals matches (up from 120 and 5 under 2011-15 format)
Eight-team knockout Super Rugby Finals Series to be staged over three weeks (5 qualifiers from the Australasian Group and 3 from the South African Group)
The four Conference winners automatically qualify for the Finals Series, along with the next three highest-ranked Australasian Group teams and the next highest-ranked South African Group team
Roll of Honour