The History of the Ranfurly Shield & what it means to New Zealand Rugby

The History of the Ranfurly Shield & what it means to New Zealand Rugby

New Zealand Rugby's most prized trophy will be up for grabs on Friday when Taranaki host Manawatu.

Taranaki have successfully defended the 'Log o Wood' twice this year during pre-season beating Poverty Bay and Wanganui. 

However, the Yellow and Black will put the Shield up against Manawatu on Friday in the Mitre 10 Cup having successfully defended the Shield against the same opposition last year.

Taranaki beat Canterbury 43-55 last year to claim the Shield for the 6th time in their history. 

With Shield Fever set to take centre stage before the second Bledisloe Cup of 2018 kicks off, we have a look back into the history of the iconic shield and why it is so important to the New Zealand Rugby public and players.

History of the Shield

The Earl of Ranfurly, who donated the Shield, was the Patron of the then-New Zealand Rugby Football Union and Governor of New Zealand.

The original prize was supposed to be a cup but on its unveiling was discovered to be a shield, with a centrepiece showing an association football match. 

The Shield then underwent the first of a series of upgrades throughout its history, which can still be seen today, before being presented to Auckland for their unbeaten season in 1902.

In 1904 the first challenge was held and Wellington became the first side to win a Shield challenge. 

Since that first match, there have been more than 600 contests at grounds all around the country, every Provincial Union has challenged for the Shield but only 17 have held it and Shield Fever continues. 

Winners' names are traditionally engraved on small shields, along with the years in which they held the Shield.


The Shield holder at the of the season is required to accept at least 7 challenges the following year. All home games during the Mitre 10 Cup or Heartland Championship, excluding knockout playoffs, are automatic challenges. 

The remaining challenges must be made up of challenges from unions in the other domestic competitions. For example, Canterbury is the current holders of the Shield and successfully defended the Shield in pre-season against Mid Canterbury & Wanganui ahead of the Mitre 10 Cup. Canterbury will defend the Shield against Otago, Southland, Counties Manakau, Waikato and Taranaki - unless they lose the title along the way.

Shield Fever

In 2012 the last of these shields were filled in when Waikato lifted the Shield, so the whole set was replaced to allow room for more winners in the future as well as recognising those teams who have held it.

In 2013 'Shield Fever' ran rampant as Otago lifted the iconic 'Log 'o wood' for the first time since 1957. Hawke's Bay also tasted success winning the Shield for the first time since 1969, but Counties Manakau became first time holders of the Shield and ended the year with it in their possession. 

The following year Hawke's Bay won the Shield back and successfully defending until their final challenge in 2015 where they were beaten by Waikato. 

Canterbury took the Shield off Waikato on 28 Septemeber 2016 winning the match 23-29. They won their first defence against North Harbour later that year and held the Sheild for the off season.

Who has won it the most times?

Auckland - 16 

Canterbury - 15

Waikato - 10

Wellington - 10

Southland - 7 

Taranaki - 6 

Hawke's Bay - 5

Otago - 5

Northland - 4

Wairarapa - 3

South Canterbury -2  

Ranfurly Shield Records

Team records

Most consecutive matches 
61, Auckland 1985–1993

Fewest consecutive matches 
1 match, 9 times

Shortest tenure 
6 days, Hawke's Bay 2013

Longest tenure
8 years, 10 months, 23 days, Southland 1938-47

Team match records

Highest score 
139–5, Auckland v North Otago, 1993

Biggest winning margin
134, Auckland v North Otago, 1993

Most tries 
23, Auckland v North Otago, 1993

Player match records


Player Career Records

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