In the southern hemisphere, 3 nations dominate the rugby world. South Africa, New Zealand and Australia have been playing rugby for over 100 years and the sport is a huge attraction in each country. The 3 teams have been playing each other regularly over that time, with the first matches between New Zealand and Australia 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 for between NZ and Australia since 1932, a competition that has also become very important in the sporting history of the 2 countries.
Since 1996, and the inception of professional rugby around the world, a new competition was started in the southern hemisphere. At that time it was called the Tri-Nations.New Zealand won the first competition and it has been a hard fought title ever since.The Bledisloe Cup matches between New Zealand and Australia continue within the Tri Nations tournament with each of their games being counted for victory on each competition front.
For the first ten years matches would be on a home and away basis. In 2006 this was increased to 3 matches against each of the other teams unless it was a World Cup year when 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 at the conclusion of all the matches.
In 2012, the competition was expanded to include a fourth country, with the Pumas representing Argentina. The competition also received a name change and become known as The Rugby Championship. It may be known by other names in each country due to sponsorship within each country.
The format of The Rugby Championship has also reverted back to each team playing each other twice in a round robin type format. One game is played at home and the other game played away. The first winner of this newly expanded series in 2012 was the New Zealand All Blacks when they won all six of the games they played.
The All Blacks, Wallabies and Springboks have shown to the world rugby players of extraordinary capabilities. 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 lead to their becoming a more consistent performer in Test matches. In fact, they drew with South Africa in the 2012 Rugby Championship and performed well in most of their games.
The Rugby Championship takes place over August and September, following the conclusion of the Super Rugby competition, and brings an intense rivalry to the rugby world for that period. Provincial loyalties are forgotten as the national teams fight it out. It is a tough time for the players but it does sometimes mean that new blood has to step up and get involved in some of the hardest rugby in the world. This then leads on to the players being prepared for matches against other nations and, every four years the big one – Rugby World Cup.