Hurricanes v Blues (1996)
How can we go past the game that launched it all for Super Rugby back in 1996? On a balmy early March night in Palmerston North, the Hurricanes hosted the Blues in a game that made history as the first professional (and Super Rugby) match to be played in New Zealand. There was a packed crowd at the Palmerston North Showgrounds and plenty of fanfare on display - including the teams charging through branded paper-walls before the match. The action on the field was fast and furious with Alama Ieremia scoring the first try in Super Rugby history for the Hurricanes. The Blues boasted a rollcall of All Blacks and ultimately won 36-28 with Andrew Blowers, Eroni Clarke, Ofisa Tonu’u, Craig Dowd and Carlos Spencer all crossing for tries.
Crusaders v Highlanders (2002)
The Crusaders are the most successful side in Super Rugby history with 12 titles (10x Super Rugby and 2x Super Rugby Aotearoa) and debate has long raged as to which side is their greatest. Many pundits and fans cannot go past the 2002 vintage which went unbeaten in 2002 and secured a record 96-19 victory over the Waratahs among their 13 victories. One of their tightest matches that season came against neighbours the Highlanders in the opening round. In an absolute classic, the Highlanders scored three tries to two with Jeff Wilson, Willie Walker and Ryan Nicholas all crossing the chalk. It was Andrew Mehrtens who proved the difference with a 25-point haul as the Crusaders snuck home 30-28. Only the Brumbies got closer to toppling the Crusaders in 2002 (going down 33-32 in round six) than the Highlanders did on that night.
Blues v Crusaders (2007)
The opening game of the 2007 season was a turn up for the record books. The Crusaders came into the game at Eden Park as the defending Super Rugby champions and having not lost to a New Zealand team since 2004. The Blues on the other hand had not beaten a New Zealand team in over two years. 26,000 Blues supporters turned up to Eden Park to show their support and were rewarded with a convincing 34-25 win over the champs. Doug Howlett, Isaia Toeava and Rudi Wulf were the try-scorers for the Blues, while Isa Nacewa added 19 points from the tee.
Chiefs v Highlanders (2013)
Coming off the back of their inaugural title win in 2012, the Chiefs wanted to make a statement early in 2013 and did so with their opening game against the Highlanders. Playing at the Highlanders then new home ground of Forsyth Barr Stadium, the Chiefs outside back division had a night to remember with Tim Nanai-Williams crossing for a double and flying wings Patrick Osborne and Asaeli Tikirotuma scoring one each. The Highlanders back three also had a night out with Ben Smith, Kade Poki and Hosea Gear all grabbing a meat-pie. In the end it was the boot of Chiefs and future Wales first five Gareth Anscombe that proved the difference with 21 points as the Chiefs set the tone for a triumphant campaign.
Blues v Hurricanes (2020 – Sky Super Rugby Aotearoa)
Sometimes sport is more than just a game. When the Blues hosted the Hurricanes in front of a packed Eden Park in the opening round of Super Rugby Aotearoa it was one of those occasions. The game took place on 14 June 2020 and was one of the first large-scale events to take place in New Zealand following the country’s first Covid-19 lockdown. The country needed something to celebrate and smile about and got with an unforgettable day at Eden Park. It was the first sell out at Eden Park for a Super Rugby game since 2003 and both teams came to party with an exhilarating 80 minutes of rugby, including a hilarious moment when Blues star Beauden Barrett got caught in the middle of a try celebration with his old team. The Blues had the last laugh in front of 42,000 fans though, winning 30-20.
Keep an eye on the Super Rugby Pacific social media channels at 3pm on Monday 15 November for the full 2022 draw.