The Ranfurly Shield explained

The Ranfurly Shield.  The Shield.  The Log o’ Wood.   Whatever you want to call it, the Ranfurly Shield is a HUGE deal in provincial rugby in New Zealand. 

It also ties in nicely with the ITM Cup, which started on 15 August, so now is a rather apt time to be telling you all about the mighty Log o’ Wood!

You may have heard of it, or this could be your first time hearing about it.  If you are in the latter group, chances are you are NOT a New Zealander, so I encourage you to read on and learn all about this magical wooden, shield shaped token of rugby awesomeness.

The Ranfurly Shield dates back to 1904 (making it 109 years old), and it was gifted to the NZRFU by the Governor of New Zealand – the Earl of Ranfurly – hence the name.  The Ranfurly Shield is based on a challenge system with the union who holds the Shield at the start of the season, facing a series of seven challenges during the ITM Cup/Heartland Championship season.  Each home game that the union holding the Shield (at the start of the season) has, is a Shield challenge – and each of those games is a winner takes all affair – the winner of course, taking the Shield.  The Ranfurly Shield can NOT be contested during the semi-finals or final.

Sounds confusing, kind of is, but here is the way things stand at the moment.

Waikato currently hold the Shield, after taking it off Taranaki in 2012

(In the ITM Cup pre-season, Waikato did have two shield defenses against Heartland Championship teams, but realistically, those games are never going to end any way but the Shield holder defending the shield by a huge margin, still it’s a great honour for those Heartland Championship (3rd division) teams)

Considering Waikato don’t lose any of them, the following games will be Ranfurly Shield defences:

  • 17 August – vs Northland
  • 23 August  – vs Otago
  • 14 September – vs Auckland
  • 27 September – vs Wellington
  • 12 October – vs Taranaki

HOWEVER, lets just say Northland beat Waikato on 17 August, Northland would become the Shield holders and their remaining home games would be Ranfurly Shield defenses:

  • 24 August – vs Southland
  • 8 September – vs Wellington
  • 26 September – vs Tasman
  • 9 October – vs Otago

Technically the Ranfurly Shield could be held by 6 teams in one season (8 if you include the pre-season games against Heartland Championship teams), but most seasons it only changes hands once, if at all.

Because I love statistics (when they relate to rugby anyway), here are some Ranfurly Shielstistics

Top 5 unions who held and defended the mighty Log o’ Wood?

  • #1 – Auckland, held 16 times & 148 defenses
  • #2 – Canterbury, held 14 times & 129 defenses
  • #3 – Wellington, held 10 times & 40 defenses
  • #4 – Waikato, held 9 times & 48 defenses
  • #5 – Southland, held 7 times & 22 defenses

Last 5 unions to hold the Shield

  • 22 October 2009 – Southland (won off Canterbury)
  • 9 October 2010 – Canterbury
  • 23 July 2011 – Southland
  • 24 August 2011 – Taranaki
  • 3 October 2012 – Waikato

Longest time in possession of the Shield

  • Auckland, (8y4d) 14th September 1985–18th  September 1993

Shortest time in possession of the Shield

  • Waikato, (8 days) 24th August 2007-1st September 2007

(won off North Harbour, lost to Canterbury)

First ever union to hold the Shield

  • Wellington, 6th August 1904-26th August 1905

(lost to Auckland afer 4 defenses)

And finally, in the all important battle between the North Island and South Island…

  • North Island – 11 unions from the North have won the Shield
  • South Island – 5 unions from the South have won the Shield

There you have it.  Now when you hear mention of the Ranfurly Shield, you will know precisely what the commentators/reporters/men at the pub are talking about, and perhaps you can even impress them with your knowledge of Shieltistics!



You Might Also Like


  1. 1
  2. 3
  3. 7

    Hi, I’m replying in relation to your “top five unions” who’ve held the Shield. It is generally regarded that Ranfurly Shield success is based on how many defences a union can repel in a tenure, rather than how many times they’ve won it.

    Hawke’s Bay have the 4th best Ranfurly Shield record but have only won it 3 times. But of those 3 times, they repelled over 20 odd defences in 2 of those tenures, both of which rank up there with the best eras in Shield rugby. The Bay sit below Waikato in the list of most successful Shield unions, with 47 defences to their name.

    I love that there’re still people out there who care about the Shield as yourself, as it is truly one of the most unique trophies in world sport, and it’s a shame that it and the NPC are being increasingly marginalised by the NZRU. Also, if you’re interested in Shield rugby I recommend Lindsay Knight’s “Shield Fever” which was later republished as “The Shield”.

  4. 8

    Hi James!

    Thanks for your comment and pointing out my little mistake. I wrote this late at night and guess I failed to think more about what constituted a top team as far as the Ranfurly Shield goes! I’m planning on doing another Ranfurly Shield related piece so will make sure I address the matter then!

    The Ranfurly Shield IS very special, and I fondly remember back to when Shield defences were a huuuuuge deal that it seemed the whole country was excited about. Now I would probably have trouble finding people who even know WHO holds the Ranfurly Shield.

    I will check out the book as well, been looking for something to read!

  5. 9

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>