The Super 12 is the world's premier provincial rugby (union) competition. Contested every year between twelve teams from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, three of international rugby's powerhouses, since 1996, the Super 12 title has been won seven times by New Zealand teams and twice by Australia.
After the success of the 1995 Rugby World Cup held in South Africa, there was a huge demand for more rugby in these three countries. Each already had a provincial tournament, but it was decided to sate the thirst by creating new teams by amalgamating adjoining provinces together to create twelve new teams (also, the Tri-Nations tournament was born between the All Blacks, Wallabies and Springboks).
These three countries were considered the strongest in international rugby - no other countries had ever won the World Cup until England in 2003. At times there have been suggestions of creating an additional Australian or South African team (at the expense of the Chiefs from New Zealand) or even a team based in San Francisco. Despite this, the competition has essentially remained unchanged since its founding, apart from irregular South African team selection. In 1997, the Free State Cheetahs were chosen to take the place of Western Province, but this was reversed in all following tournaments.
The competition is organised by the SANZAR board (South Africa-New Zealand-Australia Rugby) and is known for the innovative rulemaking. Many of the new laws introduced were later more widely adopted by the IRB. Teams recieved four points on the competition table for a win, two for a draw, and none for a loss, with the added bonus categories worth one point for scoring four tries or more, or losing by less than seven points (a converted try worth). This promoted exciting rugby as teams strived to cross the tryline rather than settling for kicks at goal.
Each team plays each other team once in the competition, selected by a pseudo-random draw. The top four teams on the points table following this play in the semifinals, and the winners of these contest the final at the home of the higher-ranked team.
There are five teams from New Zealand, four from South Africa and three from Australia.
- From New Zealand:
- From South Africa:
- From Australia:
The Blues won the first two competitions, the Crusaders the next three in a row, followed by the Brumbies taking the trophy out of New Zealand for the first time in 2001. The Crusaders had their revenge in 2002, taking the title once more, and remaining unbeaten their entire season of thirteen games, an unparalleled feat. The 2003 championship was won again by the resurgent Blues, while the Brumbies won 2004's final.
From 2006, the Super 12 is replaced by an expanded Super 14 competition, including one extra team each from Australia and South Africa.