Following Covid disrupted seasons in 2020 and 2021, provincial rugby will be back and firing on all cylinders in 2022 with the Bunnings NPC (5 August) and Bunnings Heartland Championship (20 August) starting soon after.
We look at 10 things to look forward to in provincial rugby in 2022.
THERE CAN BE ONLY ONE
For the first time since 2010, all 14 men’s teams will compete for one National Provincial Championship title. The Bunnings NPC will see Provincial Unions seeded into two conferences based on the previous season standings. Teams placed 1, 3, 5, 7, 9, 11, 13 sit within the Odds conference and teams placed 2, 4, 6, 8, 10, 12, 14 sit within the Evens conference. Read HERE for the full scoop on the new format.
LOG ‘O WOOD
The more some things change, the more others stay the same - and so is true with the Ranfurly Shield. The coveted ‘log o’ wood’ has been a prized jewel in New Zealand rugby since Auckland became the first holders in 1902 and has continued to grow in mystique with every passing year. Current holders Hawke’s Bay face one more pre-season challenge against Poverty Bay on July 30 before putting the Shield on the line against Counties Manukau in round two. Wins over Poverty Bay and Counties Manukau will take the Magpies current reign to 12 matches – equaling their memorable Shield run back in 2014-15.
BLACK FERNS STARS IN ACTION
With the Rugby World Cup being staged in Aotearoa for the first time in October and November this year, the Farah Palmer Cup provides an opportunity for local fans to see their Black Ferns stars in action before they take to the world stage.
FULL STEAM AHEAD
After two seasons disrupted by the Covid-19 pandemic, provincial rugby is back with a full calendar of games in 2022. And what’s even better, fans are allowed back with no crowd restrictions. Check out the fixtures for Farah Palmer Cup presented by Bunnings Warehouse, Bunnings NPC and the Bunnings Warehouse Heartland Championship and get along to see the action for yourself.
NEW STARS ON THE RISE
One thing that can always be guaranteed with provincial rugby is that new stars will be uncovered each season. Who will be the next Ardie Savea, Kendra Cocksedge or Will Jordan? Tune into the action live on Sky Sport or head to your local stadium to see the stars of tomorrow make their moves.
The 12-team Bunnings Warehouse Heartland Championship features an eight-week round robin with the top four teams going through to the Meads Cup semi-finals and the next four teams going through to the Lochore Cup semi-finals. Both finals are scheduled for the weekend of 22-23 October. Defending Meads Cup Champions South Canterbury kick off the season against Thames Valley and Lochore Cup holders Whanganui play West Coast in Greymouth in Round One.
BUNNINGS RUGBY ASSIST IS BACK
Community rugby clubs across Aotearoa once again have the chance to apply for Bunnings Rugby Assist with applications now open. Ten clubs will be selected to receive $30,000 worth of Bunnings products and materials to improve their clubrooms. With the growth of women’s rugby accelerating in communities throughout New Zealand, in 2022 Bunnings Rugby Assist will be dedicated to upgrading local clubrooms to be more inclusive for female rugby players. Click HERE for more information and to apply.
For every game during the Bunnings NPC and Farah Palmer Cup, the game’s top three performers will be awarded three points, two points or one point. The points are tallied throughout the season and the leading players at the end of the season will be crowned with the Fiao’o Faamausili Medal for Farah Palmer Cup player of the year and the Duane Monkley Medal for Bunnings NPC player of the year. Last year’s winners were Krystal Murray from Northland and Stephen Perofeta from Taranaki.
Swamp Foxes, Taniwha, Lions, Mako, assorted farm animals, superheroes and much more – there are not many competitions in the world that bring the variety of colourful mascots that provincial rugby in New Zealand does. Check it out for yourself and you may even get a high-five and a photo with your favourite mascot.
For the first time ever, all Bunnings NPC and Farah Palmer Cup games will be screened live on Sky Sport. Stock up on some popcorn, wash your supporters kit, reserve that comfy spot on the couch and get ready to scream the house down.