Domestic rugby season preparations across the Heartland Rugby Unions are in full swing with the 2023 season draw announced for the Bunnings Warehouse Heartland Championship.
Following a competitive season in 2022, which saw Ngāti Porou East Coast win the Lochore Cup, the team kick off round one playing Wairarapa-Bush in in Masterton. While defending Meads Cup Champions South Canterbury will play Horowhenua Kapiti at home in Waimate.
New Zealand Rugby General Manager Community Rugby Steve Lancaster is looking forward to another exciting domestic rugby season, especially following the unpredictable nature of last year’s Bunnings Warehouse Heartland Championship season.
“The 2022 season saw a few upsets and it was great to see Ngāti Porou East Coast take the Lochore Cup win after what has been a challenging ten years for the team. The competition includes some big match ups, in week seven Buller and West Coast compete for the Rundle Cup in Christchurch, while mid-Canterbury are up against Meads Cup holders South Canterbury the same weekend. It’s shaping up to be another epic season.”
Kicking off on Saturday 12 August, all twelve Bunnings Warehouse Heartland Championship teams will compete across the country in 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 14-15 October.
The Bill Osborne Taonga will be challenged in week two of the competition, with holders Ngāti Porou East Coast playing Mid Canterbury in Ruatōria.
Horowhenua-Kapiti and South Canterbury will also challenge Wellington for the Ranfurly Shield during the provincial pre-season. Accepted by Wellington Rugby Union, Horowhenua-Kapiti will play for the Ranfurly Shield on July 12 at Levin Domain. As Meads Cup champions in 2022, South Canterbury automatically earned the challenge for a second consecutive year. Provided Wellington are successful in defending the Ranfurly Shield against Horowhenua-Kapiti, South Canterbury will make the trip to Wellington to play on 19 July.
2022 Bunnings Warehouse Heartland Championship Cup and Taonga holders:
Meads Cup winners 2022 – South Canterbury
Lochore Cup winners 2022- Ngāti Porou East Coast
Bill Osborne Taonga holders – Ngāti Porou East Coast
About the Rundle Cup:
The Rundle Cup is a rugby trophy contested between the West Coast and Buller rugby unions. It replaced the Molloy Cup. Of the 37 challenge trophies contested by two provinces in New Zealand rugby it is of the longest continuous existence, it is also the second oldest provincial trophy after the Ranfurly Shield.