2015 SANZA(A)R Domestic Rugby Preview: ITM Cup, Currie Cup, National Rugby Championship

Taranaki - 2014 ITM Champions
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Taranaki - 2014 ITM Champions
Taranaki – 2014 ITM Champions

NEW YORK, NY- We touched upon it in the Global Recap that we would have another preview of the SANZA(A)R domestic rugby season. For those that are unaware. SANZAR stands for South Africa, New Zealand and Australia, the three rugby unions that are often refered to as the the Southern Hemisphere. These three nations also make up the primary nations in Super Rugby. The A in parenthesis stands for Argentina, the last nation to join SANZAR in an unofficial capacity. They are not official member yet but it is only a matter of time as they are the reason the Tri-nations became the four nations Rugby Championship and will be getting a Super Rugby team in 2016.  Our preview will cover New Zealand’s ITM Cup, South Africa’s Currie Cup, Australia’s National Rugby Championship and Argentina’s Campeonato Argentino de Rugby.

Okay… enough with the history lesson, lets look at the competitions…

The Ranfurly Shield
The Ranfurly Shield

Country: New Zealand
League: ITM Cup (Formerly the National Provincial Championship)
Defending Champions: Taranaki and Manawatu Turbos
Season Length: August 14, 2015 – October 24, 2015
Thoughts: Two conferences with two separate championships. The higher division is the premiership with a 2nd division called the championship. although for some reason inter-conference play is allowed. Within all of this there is a prize some would call even greater than the ITM Cup itself, The Ranfurly Shield. The Shield is based on a challenge so regardless of conference or any other factor a team can request and often be granted a challenge for the shield. This led to stuggling teams  like the Hawke’s Bay Magpies in 2014 holding onto it before it was taken by  Counties Manakau coached by All Black legend Tana Umaga only for Hawke’s Bay to win in a shield rematch later in the season. In the Premiership Conference last season, Taranaki put an end to Canterbury’s 7-year championship run. Our finals selection will see Taranaki in the final against Counties with Counties winning it. As for the Championship Conference winners, it will be Wellington taking down Hawkes Bay and bouncing back up into the Premiership. Here is the list of teams:

Colours Club Established Nicknames
Auckland colours, Air NZ Cup.png
Auckland 1883 Seagulls
Bay of Plenty 1911 Steamers
Canterbury 1879 Lambs
Counties Manukau 1955 Steelers
Hawkes Bay Air NZ Cup colours.png
Hawke’s Bay 1884 Magpies
Manawatu 1886 Turbos
North Harbour 1985 Hibiscus
Northland 1920 Taniwhas
Otago 1881 Razorbacks
Southland 1887 Stags
Taranaki 1885 Bulls
Tasman 2006 Makos
Waikato colours, Air NZ Cup.png
Waikato 1921 Mooloos
Wellington Lions colours.png
Wellington 1879 Lions
WeePee- The 2014 Currie Cup Champions

Country: South Africa
League: Currie Cup
Defending Champions: Western Province
Season Length:
August 7, 2015 – October 26, 2015
Thoughts: Much like the ITM Cup, Super Rugby has caused this once great domestic comp to be altered. It was the surefire pathway to Springbok selection, if you excelled as a player. During the years of South Africa’s isolation from international sport, served as the greatest sporting event in the country. It is now in its 77th season, it has been revamped once again. Its premier division now consists of 8 teams and the second division has 6 teams. The 8-team premier division will consist of: 6 teams that form the base of the S15 franchises for 2016; the #7 team from the 2013 contest, Pumas, has a permanent spot now and the winner of the first division’s qualification tournament that was played in June and July

As per Wikipedia, currently, South Africa is divided into 14 unions. Of those unions only four recruit their players from just their province and not cover two provinces: Here are the unions in the premier division and where they draw from:

GriquasNorthern Cape (home matches in Kimberley)
Natal SharksKwaZulu-Natal (home matches in Durban) – S15 franchise
Free State Cheetahs – central and western (home matches in Bloemfontein) – S15 franchise
Western ProvinceCape Town metropolitan area – S15 franchise known as the Stormers
Golden LionsJohannesburg and municipalities to its west (home matches in Johannesburg) – S15 franchise
Blue BullsPretoria, the two Gauteng municipalities to its east, and Limpopo Province (home matches in Pretoria) – S15 franchise
Eastern Province Kings – Central southern coast (home matches in Port Elizabeth) –  1st division playoff winners
PumasMpumalanga (home matches in Witbank) – 1st division champions

With all that said, we feel that it is a two-horse race between the Sharks and Western Province. It is tough to see anyone upsetting the balance though the Blue Bulls may just be the team to do so.

2014 NRC champions – Brisbane City

Country: Australia
League: National Rugby Championship
Defending Champions: Brisbane City
Season Length:
August 29, 2015 – October 31, 2015
Thoughts: The first year of the Australian NRC was moderately successful, which is an achievement in of itself. Considering the obstacles and failed predecessor of the NRC, it was not easy to start up but it was important to the future of Australian rugby that it have nationwide premier rugby tournament. The competition is back for a second year and it looks to have attracted more sponsors. More importantly it will reduce the amount teams that wore yellow. No less than 6 teams had yellow in either their home or away strip, making it very confusing for fans. There will be a total of 9 teams with 6 of them split between rugby union heartland provinces New South Wales and Queensland. The remaining three will be in Perth, Melbourne and the capital city Canberra; all 3 have Super Rugby franchises so that makes sense.  Here is a list of teams:

Being only in existence one year is tough  guess but since we liked Brisbane City last year to win it, we figure we will go with them winning it all again this year. Here is the complete list of teams:

Team Licencees and associated clubs 2014 Placing
Brisbane City QRU / Reds 1st
Greater Sydney Rams West Harbour, Penrith, Parramatta, Southern Districts * 5th
Melbourne Rising VRU / Rebels 1st
NSW Country Eagles Easts, Randwick 2nd
North Harbour Rays Manly, Warringah, Gordon, Norths 7th
Perth Spirit WA / Force 2nd
Queensland Country QRU / Reds 8th
Sydney Stars Sydney University, Balmain 9th
University of Canberra Vikings ACT&SNSW Rugby Union / Brumbies, University of Canberra, Tuggeranong Vikings 6th

Argentina_RugbyCountry: Argentina
League: Campeonato Argentino de Rugby
Defending Champions: Tucumán
Season Length:
October 31, 2015 – November 29, 2015
The inter-provincial rugby tournament in Argentina is called the Campeonato. It is also the name of the division that is considered the major tournament and is played between the 31st of October and 28th of November. The tournament is divided into 3 divisions, the“Campeonato”, “Ascenso”, and “Desarollo.” The Campenonato is played in November and features the top 6 regions in the country. The regions are Tucuman, Cordoba, Buenos Aires, Salta, Alta Valle and Rosario. All the teams, in particular those from the big cities, have a rich history. It will likely be a three-horse race between Tucuman, Buenos Aires and Cordoba. In the last six years it has gone to one of Tucuman (’10, ’13, ’14)  or Cordoba (’09, ’11, ’12). This year won’t be different as we are picking Cordoba to deny Tucuman a third successive title.

That’s it for now! Feel free to comment below, look for and “Like” our Facebook Rugby Wrap Up Page and follow us on Twitter@: RugbyWrapUp, Junoir Blaber, James Harrington, Jamie Wall, Nick Hall, DJ Eberle, Jake Frechette, Scheenagh Harrington, Jamie Loyd, Cody Kuxmann, Karen Ritter, Audrey Youn, Akweley Okine, Rocky Brown and Declan Yeats, respectively.

And as always, stay low and keep pumping those legs.

About Junoir Blaber 868 Articles
Born in Osu, Accra, Ghana, West Africa, Junoir Blaber is a rare commodity; while most Ghanians eat, sleep and dream Soccer (football), Junoir is all about Rugby. A self-proclaimed Rugbyologist, he has been involved in Rugby as a ref, coach, administrator and player since Columbus discovered Ohio. His useful/trivial rugby knowledge qualify Blaber as RWU's Senior Correspondent & known in rugby circles as The Rugby Rain Man. He can also be found moonlighting for our American partners at MeetTheMatts.com.