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Air New Zealand Cup
Sport Rugby Union
Founded 2006
Teams 14
Current Champions Canterbury
Current Season:
2009 Air New Zealand Cup
30 July 2009
7 November 2009

The Air New Zealand Cup is New Zealandmarker's annual professional domestic rugby union competition. It was founded in 2006 with 14 teams, after the NPC was split into two separate competitions. The other 12 provincial teams from the NPC now compete in the amateur Heartland Championship. It is sponsored by Air New Zealand, the national airline and flag carrier of New Zealand. New Zealand also has five teams in Super 14, an elite competition which also involves sides from Australia and South Africa.


The 2006 reorganisation of New Zealand provincial rugby replaced the NPC's former three-division setup with two distinct competitions. This differs from the original two-division setup used in the NPC from its creation in 1976 to 1984 in two key ways. First, the two current competitions are nationwide, while the original NPC Division Two was split on a North Island/South Island basis. Second, the NZRU ruled that there would initially be no promotion or relegation between the Air New Zealand Cup and Heartland Championship—a feature that had always been present in the former NPC.

Also, the number of teams was reduced to 26, as the Marlborough and Nelson Bays unions merged to form the new Tasman union.

The 2006 expansion of the Super 12 and Tri Nations Series had a major effect on the Air New Zealand Cup. This expansion created the Super 14, adding two extra fixtures to that competition, and also added two more Tri-Nations matches for the All Blacks, at least in non-World Cup years. Because of these changes, it was intended for players in the All Blacks selection pool to make only limited appearances in the Air New Zealand Cup.

Inaugural Season

The first Air New Zealand drew some good support from fans and was a successful first season. The new competition also saw the introduction of 4 teams up from the old Division Two of the NPC, they were: The competition was taken out by Waikato 37-31, after they beat Wellington in the Grand Final in front of a capacity crowd of 25,000 fans at Waikato Stadiummarker. The leading try-scorer was emerging star Richard Kahui from Waikato with eight tries, and the leading point-scorer was Jimmy Gopperth from Wellington with 121 points.

Round One

The format saw the 14 teams split into two pools of seven, the teams in each pool, play the other teams in their pool once over seven weeks with also one bye to the name.The two pools were:
Pool A Pool B
Auckland Canterbury
Bay of Plenty Counties Manukau
Manawatu Hawke's Bay
North Harbour Northland
Taranaki Otago
Tasman Southland
Wellington Waikato

Auckland topped Pool A with 25 points for Round One the most by any team and Pool B was taken out by Waikato on 24 points.

Round Two

Round Two was played over three weeks with the top three teams from each pool advancing into the Top Six, Auckland, North Harbour and Wellington were the three teams from pool A to advance with 25, 23 and 21 points respectively. The three teams from pool B were Waikato on 24 points and Canterbury and Otago on 23 points each. The remaining teams would be put into Repechage A and B. The teams in the Top Six would carry over there points from Round One and play three other teams they did not play in the first round, the Top Six automatically advance to the quarter-finals, their seedings are determined by Round Two. The teams in each Repechage play each other team in their respective pool, these teams do not carry over their points from the first round, the top team from each Repechage would play on to the quarter-finals.
Top Six
North Harbour
Repechage A Repechage B
Bay of Plenty Northland
Counties Manukau Southland
Hawke's Bay Taranaki
Manawatu Tasman

Waikato topped the Top Six with a total of 36 points, by doing this Waikato clinched home advantage through the Finals. Bay of Plenty took out repechage A with a dominating 14 points while repechage B was not so easy with Southland taken it out by one point from Northland 9 to 8, Southland's last game was against Northland and they lost, they had to get a bonus point to advance to the quarter-finals, they did this by losing by seven points.

Quarters and Semis

The finals are a straight lose and go home format. Waikato were the top seed going in and were home for the finals.

The eight finalists were:
1 Waikato
2 Auckland
3 North Harbour
4 Wellington
5 Canterbury
6 Otago
7 Bay of Plenty
8 Southland

1 vs 8, 2 vs 7, 3 vs 6 and 4 vs 5 was how they determined who faced who in the quarter-finals, this translates into Waikato vs Southland, Auckland vs Bay of Plenty, North Harbour vs Otago and Wellington vs Canterbury.

Waikato beat Southland 24-12 in the first match of the quarter-finals and Auckland trounced Bay of Plenty 46-14. The surprise of the week was a 56-21 try fest won by Otago against North Harbour, the only away team to win in the quarters. With the last match of the round, Wellington blocked out Canterbury into the semi's with satisfying 36-21 win in the Capital.

The semi-finals were to be contested Waikato facing off against Otago and Auckland playing Wellington at home. Wellington won their match against Auckland 30 to 15 while Waikato had an easy win with the scoreline of 44-15. This would see Waikato and Wellington square off in the Inaugural Grand Final of the Air New Zealand Cup.

Grand Final

The 2006 Air New Zealand Cup Grand Final was played on 21 October. It pitted the Lions from the capital city facing of the against the countrymen who call themselves the Mooloos. Bryce Lawrence officiated the match in front of 28,000 people at Waikato Stadiummarker. The game finished with the Mooloo men on top with an aggregate score of 68, 37 points to and 31 points to Wellington. Byron Kelleher lead the charge for Waikato with scoring two of their four tries with Richard Kahui and Brendon Leonard scoring the others. David Hill scored seven kicks, landing all the conversions and three penalties that's 17 points in total, the leading point scorer for the game. Ma'a Nonu also scored two tries with Captain Tana Umaga following with one of his own, Jimmy Gopperth landed 6 kicks, 2 conversions and 4 penalties. Waikato wrapped the game up with about 5 mins to go, not even Umaga's try could save the Wellingtonians. Waikato finished what was one of their most successful seasons to date and Wellington was soon to realise winning the final was more easier said than done.

2007 and 2008

The Air NZ Cup saw Auckland and Canterbury come out as champs in 2007 and 2008 respectively, both winning their finals against the Lions from Wellington. It also saw some changes in the format which the teams played through.

Format Changes

The 2007 and 2008 season saw changes in the format for the competition with the NZRU opting to dump the previous pool system used the year before, instead going for a 10 week round-robin where each team will miss out on playing three of the other teams. The finals format was not changed however still staying with the quarter-finals, semi-finals and grand final.

2007 Air NZ Cup

The 2007 Air New Zealand Cup was a relatively quiet compared to its predecessor, it saw Auckland come out over Wellington. It was Wellington second successive Grand Final. Auckland finished the season at the top of the Points table with a record 48 competition points winning all ten matches. Jimmy Gopperth again finished as leading points scorer with 155, a new record and Brent Ward from Auckland finished with the top try scorer title with 8 tries.

Quarter Finalists
1 Auckland
2 Canterbury
3 Wellington
4 Hawke's Bay
5 Waikato
6 Southland
7 Otago
8 Taranaki

Auckland had an easy road into the final winning both of their matches, 30-10 against Taranaki in the quarter-final and winning 38-3 against Hawke's Bay in the semi. Wellington also had an convincing win in their quarter-final winning 45-3 against Southland but had a harder time in the semi beating Canterbury by 5 points 26-21 at AMI Stadiummarker.

The final was played on the 20th of October between Auckland and Wellington at Eden Parkmarker. Two tries both converted by Isa Nacewa gave Auckland a 14-3 lead midway through the first-half, but a try by Wellington meant that the halftime scoreline was narrowed to 14-8. Two penalties to each team made it 20-14 early in the second half, another penalty by Nacewa made the final score 23-14 with Auckland winning their 16th championship.

2008 Air NZ Cup

2008 saw Hosea Gear set a record with an astounding 14 tries, it also saw his team reach the Grand Final once again, the third successive season, but like the previous two, coming up short once again losing to Canterbury 6 points to seven in a wet and low scoring final in the capital. The Wellington Rugby Football Union had something to cheer them up by putting the Ranfurly Shield away for the summer with their last challenge being Tasman beating them 26-20. Blair Stewart from Southland was the leading points-scorer with a lower than previous 105 points. 2008 also saw on August 11, 2008 that the New Zealand Rugby Union initially announced that both Tasman and Northland would be relegated from the Air New Zealand Cup after the completion of the 2008 season. Both teams failed to meet criteria which included financial stability, population, player training and development, playing history, and administration. This decision was reversed towards the end of the 2008 season, with Tasman and Northland remaining in the competition for two more years

Quarter Finalists
1 Wellington
2 Canterbury
3 Hawke's Bay
4 Bay of Plenty
5 Southland
6 Waikato
7 Tasman
8 Taranaki

Both Canterbury and Wellington had easy quarter-finals winning their games 48-10 and 50-30 respectively. Their semi-finals were somewhat harder with Canterbury winning 31-21 against Hawke's Bay and Wellington beating Southland 28-19.

The 2008 Air New Zealand Cup Grand Final was played on the 25th of October in the capital. A converted try to Hayden Hopgood and a Piri Weepu penalty was the only scoring in the first half leaving Canterbury having a 7-3 advantage at the break. It was no better in the second with the only score being a Wellington penalty, and that is how it ended, with a Canterbury win and yet another Wellington loss.

2009 Air New Zealand Cup

2009 almost saw a reduced 12 team competition with Tasman and Northland possibly relegated due to financial and player retention issues. The 2009 Air NZ Cup Round-Robin will begin on the 30th of July and run to the 25th of October. The format has changed to a straight round-robin tournament where every team faces the others once over 13 weeks.

The competition will be the last of the Air New Zealand Cup, by name and by format, with the NZRU deciding to reduce the top division, named the Premier Division as of 2010, to ten teams and have two lesser divisions; the First Division with 6 teams, 4 teams from the Air New Zealand Cup and two teams from the Heartland Championship; and a Heartland Championship competition with ten teams.


The NZRU announced that the Air New Zealand Cup will be reduced to a 10 team competition either in 2010 or 2011. The new structure will see a Premier Division, First Division and the Heartland Championship running underneath. It means that four teams from the current competition will be cut. Possible unions include Counties-Manukau, Tasman, Manawatu and Northland. Other suggestions were to bring in the best teams 2nd XV's to compete in the second and third divisions.

The key principles agreed at the time were that the competitions must:
  • Include Super Rugby players;
  • Have a stand-alone window;
  • Feature a full round-robin and playoffs;
  • Have promotion-relegation;
  • Guarantee four and five home games per team;
  • Be completed within a 10-12 week window; and
  • Conclude by the end of October.

Current Format

The 2009 Air New Zealand Cup will see a different structure than previous years, after a small pre-season the Round-Robin runs for 13 weeks with every team facing each other once. The top four teams will advance to the semi-finals and the winners from each semi goes on to compete for the title in the Grand Final.

To decide which four teams will go through to the semi-finals the Rugby Union Bonus Points System is used.

The Rugby Union Points System:
  • 4 points for a win
  • 2 points for a draw
  • 1 point for scoring 4 tries
  • 1 point for losing by 7 points or less
So the most points a winning team can receive is 5 and the most a losing team can receive is 2 points.Semi-Finals are played between 4 teams, the teams are seeded 1 to 4 and the two highest seeded teams play at home against the two lowest seeded teams meaning 1 plays 4 and 2 plays 3. The highest seed still remaining in the grand final plays at home.

Current Teams

The Air New Zealand Cup consists of 14 teams covering a substantial part of New Zealandmarker, each team is under the governance of a union, e.g. Auckland is governed by the Auckland Rugby Football Union, each team is the top male representative team that the union has to offer.

At least 10 days prior to the start of the upcoming season each union must contract at least 26 players to compete with.

The following teams contest for the Air New Zealand Cup, and have since 2006:

Team Head Coach Captain Stadia Latest Placing (2008)
Round-Robin Finals
Auckland Mark Anscombe Benson Stanley Eden Parkmarker 11th DNQ
Bay of Plentymarker Sean Horan Colin Bourke Baypark Stadiummarker and Rotorua Int'l Stadiummarker 5th Quarterfinals
Canterbury Rob Penney George Whitelock AMI Stadiummarker 2nd Champions
Counties Manukau Milton Haig Tasesa Lavea Growers Stadium 13th DNQ
Hawke's Bay Peter Russell Jason Shoemark McLean Parkmarker 3rd Semifinals
Manawatu Dave Rennie Josh Bradnock FMG Stadiummarker 14th DNQ
North Harbour Craig Dowd Anthony Boric North Harbour Stadiummarker 12th DNQ
Northland Bryce Woodward Jared Payne Okara Parkmarker and Kerikeri Domain 9th DNQ
Otago Steve Martin Alando Soakai Carisbrookmarker 10th DNQ
Southland Simon Culhane and David Henderson Jamie Mackintosh Rugby Park Stadiummarker 4th Semifinals
Taranaki Adrian Kennedy Tony Penn Yarrow Stadiummarker 8th Quarterfinals
Tasman Bevan Cadwallader and Kieran Keane Andrew Goodman Lansdowne Parkmarker and Trafalgar Parkmarker 7th Quarterfinals
Waikato Chris Gibbes Liam Messam Waikato Stadiummarker 6th Quarterfinals
Wellington Jamie Joseph Jacob Ellison Westpac Stadiummarker 1st Runners Up
North Island South Island

Past Seasons


The Air New Zealand Cup Champions for each season are awarded the Air New Zealand Cup Trophy. Waikato won the first competition in 2006 while Auckland and Canterbury took out the 2007 and 2008 Cups respectively, every year Wellington were the runners up.
Year Date Champion Score Runner up Referee Stadium Attendance
2006 21 October Waikato 37 – 31 Wellington Bryce Lawrence Waikato Stadiummarker 25,000
17 - 13
2007 20 October Auckland 23 – 14 Wellington Chris Pollock Eden Parkmarker 16,000
14 - 8
2008 25 October Canterbury 7 – 6 Wellington Bryce Lawrence Westpac Stadiummarker 21,237
7 - 3
2009 7 November Canterbury 28 – 20 Wellington Vinny Munro AMI Stadiummarker 12,000
18 - 3
Full-time Score Half-time Score


The 2006 Air New Zealand Cup was played over 13 weeks from the 28th of July till the Grand Final on the 21st of October. The season was split into two rounds, Round One saw all teams split into two pools and played everybody in their pool as well as a bye week, Round Two saw the top three teams from each pool go on into the top six, the top six teams faced every team they didn't play in Round One, every other team were split into either Repechage A and Repechage B, the winners of each repechage went on to fill out the two remaining spots for the quarterfinals with the top six, the quarterfinals were followed by semifinals and a grand final.

Round One

Pool Table Pos. Team W D L PF PA PD Results by Round BP1 BP2 Comp. Points
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
A 1st Auckland 5 0 1 195 63 132 W W W W L W bye 4 1 25
A 4th Bay of Plenty 3 0 3 116 129 -13 bye L L L W W W 0 1 13
B 2nd Canterbury 5 0 1 170 87 93 W W L W bye W W 3 0 23
B 5th Counties Manukau 1 0 5 130 158 -28 L bye L L L W L 2 3 9
B 6th Hawke's Bay 1 1 4 109 192 -83 L L W bye D L L 1 1 8
A 7th Manawatu 0 0 6 46 174 -128 L bye L L L L L 0 1 1
A 2nd North Harbour 5 0 1 142 92 50 W W W W bye L W 3 0 23
B 7th Northland 1 1 4 104 181 -77 L L L W D bye L 0 0 6
B 3rd Otago 5 0 1 153 76 77 W W W W W L bye 2 1 23
B 4th Southland 2 0 4 88 123 -35 W L bye L L L W 1 1 10
A 5th Taranaki 2 0 4 86 128 -42 L L L W W bye L 0 1 9
A 6th Tasman 1 0 5 133 163 -30 L L W bye L L L 1 3 8
B 1st Waikato 5 0 1 187 124 63 bye W W L W W W 3 1 24
A 3rd Wellington 5 0 1 121 90 31 W W bye L W W W 1 0 21
Home Game Away Game


The Air New Zealand Cup is hand-forged and was created by Jens Hansen Gold and Silversmith of Nelson, the same workshop that crafted the ‘One Ring’ for Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy and the new Rebel Sport Super 14 trophy. Master silversmith Thorkild Hansen and his team spent 3 months crafting the trophy.

The trophy stands 45 centimetres tall and weighs 3.9 kilograms. It includes 2.7 kilograms of sterling silver and the inside of the trophy is gilded with gold.The trophy sits on a base of black basalt that was hand-crafted by Waihi stone carver Jeff Beckworth.

Ranfurly Shield

The Ranfurly Shield, colloquially known as the Log o' Wood, is perhaps the most prestigious trophy in New Zealand's domestic rugby union competition. First presented to Auckland in 1902, 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.

Current Holders

The Shield is currently held by Southland, who won it from Canterbury in the final round of the Round Robin in the 2009 Air New Zealand Cup. They have had no challenges. Their next challenge will be in the 2010 Air New Zealand Cup.


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 Air New Zealand 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 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.


A provincial union may, acting on behalf of the NZRU, employ players on a Provincial Union Contract a Provincial Union Development Contract. Each provincial union must, in each contract year, become parties to at least 26 Provincial Union Contracts. There is no limit on the number of Provincial Union Development Contracts. Any retainers paid are guaranteed for the term of the playing contract regardless of injury, illness, selection or non-selection.

A player on a Provincial Union Contract must receive a minimum guaranteed retainer of $15,000 percontract year. There is no minimum guaranteed retainer for a player on a Provincial Union Development Contract but if the player is selected as part of his provincial union’s Air New Zealand Cup team he must be paid provincial union replacement player fees of at least $1,000 per week, inclusive of the player’s provincial union development retainer. The term of a Provincial Union Contract or Provincial Union Development Contract must expire between 31 October and 31 December in a specified contract year. A player on either a Provincial Union Contract or Provincial Union Development Contract may also agree to non-financial benefits and individual performance incentives. A provincial union may, at their discretion, make payments to players of provincial union team performance incentives up to the following amounts (such payment are excluded from the provincial union salary cap):

Goal Payment to Team
Home Semi-Final $50,000
Away Semi-Final $25,000
Home Final $75,000
Away Final $50,000
Winning Final $25,000

All contractual negotiations and documents between a player and a provincial union are confidentialbetween those parties except as provided for in the agreement. The provincial union must, uponrequest, make a copy available for inspection by the RPC of player contracts.

Provincial Union Obligations

The provincial union’s and player’s obligations under each of the above playing contracts are outlined in detail in the agreement.


A Provincial Union Contract or Provincial Union Development Contract is regarded as terminated uponthe expiry of its term.

A player may, at his option, terminate his Provincial Union Contract or Provincial Union DevelopmentContract by giving written notice to the NZRU (including by giving it to his provincial union, on the NZRU’s behalf) if, at any time during his provincial union term (or provincial union development term), an NZRU contract to which he is a party is terminated (or if that NZRU contract expires and the player does not enter into a subsequent NZRU contract), and provided that he may not enter into a Provincial Union Contract or Provincial Union Development Contract with a different agreed provincial union during the period that would otherwise be his unexpired provincial union term or provincial union development term.

However, a player may waive the right to terminate his Provincial Union Contract or Provincial UnionDevelopment Contract upon becoming a de-listed player, provided that certain conditions are met.The NZRU may terminate a Provincial Union Contract or Provincial Union Development Contract in thecase of serious misconduct, in accordance with the agreement. A player and a provincial union (acting on behalf of the NZRU) may, at any time during the term of a Provincial Union Contract or Provincial Union Development Contract, agree to terminate the player’s employment relationship on such terms as they may negotiate between themselves.

Provisions relating to the Air New Zealand Cup

At least 10 days prior to the commencement of the Air New Zealand Cup in each contract year eachprovincial union must select at least 26 players to provide employment services for its Air NewZealand Cup team by providing a written list of those players to the NZRU. The group of playersselected in this way is that provincial union’s Air New Zealand Cup squad.


Existing NZRU Transfer Regulations will be abolished subject to Commerce Commission approval andthe terms outlined later in this part. A player may enter into an agreement to transfer between 1 October in a particular contract year and the Friday following the final game in the Rebel Sport Super 14 competition in the contract year immediately following. For the avoidance of doubt, a player may transfer once only during each such period. If a transfer is agreed in writing and notified to the NZRU prior to the Rebel Sport Super 14 eligibility date (even if it is to take effect at a later date in that transfer period), the player’s new agreed provincial union will be taken into account for the purpose of determining his home franchise for the following Rebel Sport Super 14 competition.

There is no restriction on the number of players that may transfer and no fee shall be payable, except for players transferring from a Division 1 provincial union to an Air New Zealand Cup provincial union. A player who is not a party to a Provincial Union Contract or Provincial Union Development Contract may enter into a Provincial Union Contract or a Provincial Union Development Contract at any time.


A player who is a party to a Provincial Union Contract or a Provincial Union Development Contractmay agree with his agreed provincial union (in this clause, the lending provincial union) to beseconded to another provincial union (in this clause, the borrowing provincial union) for the purpose of providing his employment services to the borrowing provincial union’s team in the Air NewZealand Cup. Such secondment is referred to as a loan arrangement, and such player is referredto as a loan player.

No loan arrangement may be entered into after round six of the round-robin matches in the Air NewZealand Cup. There is no limit upon the number of players which a provincial union may lend orborrow, but the starting 22 of any team in the Air New Zealand Cup may not include more than sixloan players. The NZRU may amend these provisions by agreement with the RPC (such agreementnot to be unreasonably withheld). A loan player named in a provincial union’s Air New Zealand Cup squad must receive payments of at least $15,000 in that contract year.

In the event that a loan player is required to relocate from his usual home as a consequence of aloan arrangement, the borrowing provincial union will meet the player’s actual and reasonable costs(approved in writing by the borrowing provincial union in advance of being incurred) of up to $1,500for relocation and travel (including up to three return trips to the player’s home) and of up to $250 per week for reasonable costs of rental accommodation and associated utilities (excluding telephone and food).

See also


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