From The Vaults

15 July 2019
Beginner’s Guide to The Rugby Championship

The Rugby Championship 2019 begins on Saturday so it's the perfect time to get up to speed with the Southern Hemisphere's round robin format tournament. The Rugby Championship in a Nutshell The Rugby Championship is a Rugby Union tournament played every year between Argentina, Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa. How did The Rugby Championship begin? Originally the Tri-Nations, the inaugural championship was contested by Australia, New Zealand and South Africa in 1996. In 2012, Argentina joined the tournament and it was renamed The Rugby Championship.

South Africa v New Zealand, 10th August, Newlands Stadium, Cape Town (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

How does the Championship work? The Rugby Championship is played in a round robin format, although the number of matches played has varied. This year, being a Rugby World Cup year, the championship has been shortened from the standard 12 matches over 6 weekends to 6 matches over 3 weekends, with each team playing each other either home or away. The competition winners are decided by a league table in which points are awarded on the following basis:

Win 4 points
Draw 2 points
Loss 0 points for loss of more than 7 points
Bonus 1 point for 3 tries or more than opponent
Bonus 1 point for loss within 7 points or less


Accolades and Trophies The Rugby Championship trophy is awarded to the overall winner of the competition but there are a number of other trophies related to the matches played in the tournament. The Bledisloe Cup has been contested between Australia and New Zealand since the 1930s. Although the frequency and number of matches played varies, it is awarded to the team that wins the most in a calendar year. If the series is tied it is retained by the holder. It is named after Lord Bledisloe who was Governor-General of New Zealand between 1930 and 1935. The Freedom Cup is contested by New Zealand and South Africa. It began in 2004 on the 10th anniversary of South African democracy. It is presented to the winner of the annual series of test matches between the 2 teams. Like the Bledisloe Cup, if the series is tied it is retained by the holder. The Mandela Challenge Plate is named after South Africa's first post-apartheid president, Nelson Mandela and was first contested in 2000 between Australia and South Africa. It is now awarded annually to the outright winner of their series of test matches in the Rugby Championship. Which team has had the most success? New Zealand started as they meant to go on, winning the first Tri-Nations Championship and they've since won the title more than any other competing team: 10 Tri-Nations wins and 6 Rugby Championship titles since Argentina joined the tournament. That's an almost 70% success rate!

The Rugby Championship 2018: South Africa v New Zealand

New Zealand, The Rugby Championship 2018 winners, after their match v South Africa on 6th October 2018, Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria (Photo by Lee Warren/Gallo Images/Getty Images)