Super Rugby Series History

Super Rugby is the major professional rugby union competition in the Southern Hemisphere. The competition began as Super 12 in 1996, consisting of 12 teams from Australia, South Africa and New Zealand.

An extra Australian and South African team were added in 2005 and the name was changed to Super 14. A fifteenth team joined in 2011 and the competition was rebranded as Super Rugby.

The current format consists of three conferences of five teams from each country. Teams play other members of their conference twice (home and away) and four teams from each of the other two conferences once.

The top team in each conference and the next best three over all conferences advance to the finals.

In all previous formats there were no conferences and each team played every team once, with the top four progressing to the finals. The tournament is organised and governed by SANZAR (South Africa, New Zealand and Australia Rugby).

Super Rugby is considered a successor to the Super Six (1992) and Super 10 (1993–1995), although SANZAR did not administer the Super Six or Super 10 tournaments.

Competition structure


The Super 10 replaced the South Pacific Championship, CANZ Series and Super Six tournaments which had been organized by the Australian and New Zealand rugby unions during the 1980s and early 1990s.

With South Africa being readmitted into international sport due to the dismantling of apartheid (both The Wallabies and the All Blacks toured South Africa during 1992), there was an opportunity to launch an expanded competition also featuring South Africa’s top provincial teams.

The South African Broadcasting Corporation’s Top Sport channel committed to a three year sponsorship of the competition, allowing it to be launched.

The official declaration of professionalism in rugby union in August 1995 led to a reworking of the competition. SANZAR, a partnership between the South African Rugby Union, the New Zealand Rugby Union and the Australian Rugby Union was formed, and in association with Rupert Murdoch’s News Limited, they created the Super 12.

This fully professional competition featured teams from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa only, with one more team from each country being admitted, and was launched in 1996.


Every season, each team played every other Super 12 team (Super 14 from 2006) once, in a round-robin. The venues for regular season matches alternated each year, so that teams would not play one another at the same venue in consecutive seasons unless they met in the play-offs.

The tournament used the rugby union bonus points system; teams were awarded 4 points for a win, 2 for a draw, and none for a loss. They received bonus points for scoring 4 or more tries in a match, and/or for a loss by 7 or fewer points.

After each team had completed their regular season matches, the top 4 teams qualified for the semi-finals. Semi-finals were held under a Shaughnessy playoff system; the first placed team in the table hosted the fourth placed, and second hosted third.

The winner of each semi-final advanced to the final, held at the home ground of whichever team amassed more points in the round-robin table.


In 2011, Melbourne Rebels joined the Super Rugby competition, meaning that Australia, New Zealand and South Africa would each be represented by 5 teams. The format was also changed. Teams are divided into 3 conferences; one per country.

Each team plays other teams in the same conference; home and away, and plays 8 further matches against teams from other conferences, for a total of 16 games. Each team receives 2 byes throughout a season; 4 bye points are added to the team’s total on the day a bye is allocated.

The highest placed team in each conference qualifies for the finals stage, along with 3 highest scoring teams which were not conference winners. The 2 highest scoring teams advance straight to the semi-finals, while the 3rd to 6th placed teams play-off to decide which 2 teams advance to the semis.

The format of the semi-finals and final is the same as that previously used in the Super 14.

The bonus points system has also been retained, with the single addition that a team receives 4 points for each bye.

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