In the southern hemisphere, 3 nations dominate the world of rugby. South Africa, New Zealand and Australia have been playing rugby for over 100 years and the sport is a huge attraction in every country. The 3 teams faced each other regularly during this period, with the first matches between New Zealand and Australia being played in 1903, between New Zealand and South Africa in 1921 and between South Africa. and Australia in 1933.
The Bledisloe Cup has been played between NZ and Australia since 1932, a competition which has also become very important in the sporting history of both countries.
Since 1996, and the establishment of professional rugby all over the world, a new competition has been launched in the southern hemisphere. At that time it was called the Tri-Nations. New Zealand won the first competition and this title has been hard fought since. Bledisloe Cup matches between New Zealand and Australia continue in the Tri Nations tournament, each of their matches being counted for victory on each competitive front.
During the first ten years, matches would take place at home and away. In 2006 that was increased to 3 matches against each of the other teams, unless it was a World Cup year where only two would be played. The usual rugby scoring system, with bonus points, was used and the winner was the team, at the top of the table after all matches.
In 2012, the competition was expanded to include a fourth country, Pumas representing Argentina. The competition also received a name change and became known as the Rugby Championship. It may be known by other names in each country due to sponsorship in each country.
The rugby championship format has also returned to each team which is played twice in a round robin type format. One game is played at home and the other is played away. The first winner of this newly expanded series in 2012 was the New Zealand All Blacks when they won all six games they played.
The All Blacks, Wallabies and Springboks have shown rugby players around the world extraordinary abilities. They continue to be leading countries in the world of rugby. Argentina have performed well on the world stage at times and their inclusion in the rugby championship may well allow them to become a more consistent player in test matches. In fact, they drew with South Africa in the 2012 rugby championship and performed well in most of their matches.
The rugby championship takes place in August and September, after the conclusion of the Super Rugby competition, and brings intense rivalry to the rugby world for this period. Provincial loyalties are forgotten as national teams battle. It’s a tough time for players, but it sometimes means new blood has to come together and get involved in some of the toughest rugby in the world. This then leads the players to prepare for the matches against other nations and, every four years, the big one – the Rugby World Cup.