South Canterbury create Heartland history
South Canterbury has started their bid for a third-straight Heartland Championship title in record-setting form.
The 48-14 win over Horowhenua-Kapiti at Manchester Park, Waimate, set a new record for most consecutive games unbeaten in the championship, having previously drawn level with Whanganui (who set the record 2015-2017) when beating that team in the 2022 Meads Cup final.
South Canterbury have won 22 games on the bounce by an average score of 46-17. Their unbeaten streak is more than double their previous best unbeaten streak of eight a row achieved twice in 2013-14 and 2015.
It’s a far cry from South Canterbury’s earliest seasons. They lost their first six games from 1888 to 1892, won their seventh in 1893, then had a losing streak of 15 games from 1894 to 1898.
Between 1979 and 1980, South Canterbury played a total of 32 games for four wins and 28 losses. That included a 10 and 12-game losing streak.
2019: Heartland Championship
Buller, 56-24 (Lochore Cup Semi)
West Coast, 23-19 (Lochore Cup Final)
NOTE: There was no Heartland Championship in 2020 due to the Covid-19 Pandemic.
2021: Heartland Championship
Wairarapa Bush, 61-17
King Country, 72-0
Ngāti Porou East Coast, 34-12
North Otago, 33-27
Mid Canterbury, 43-22
West Coast, 46-19 (Meads Cup Semi)
Thames Valley, 35-16 (Meads Cup Final)
2022: Heartland Championship
Thames Valley, 23-17
Horowhenua Kapiti, 53-20
North Otago, 36-17
Wairarapa Bush, 73-19
Poverty Bay, 60-7
Mid Canterbury, 36-13
Ngāti Porou East Coast, 57-5
King Country, 76-9 (Meads Cup Semi)
Whanganui, 47-36 (Meads Cup Final)
2023: Heartland Championship
Points For: 1018 (144t, 92c, 38p)
Points Against: 364
South Canterbury was unbeaten in their 2020 first-class fixtures. The scores were: Mid Canterbury, 31-31, North Otago, 24-7 & 66-28 and Buller, 78-10 & 66-28.
The leading individual points scorer in the streak is Sam Briggs with 259 points. Liueli Simote has scored 16 tries in 19 games.
South Canterbury established season championship records in 2022 for most points (491) and conversions (46).
The 76-9 victory over King Country in the 2022 semi was the highest score in an NPC or Heartland finals game since finals began in 1992, topping the previous marks of 65 set by Hawke’s Bay (1994) and Poverty Bay (2007), Bay of Plenty (64 in 2019), Northland (63 in 1997), Otago (61 in 1998) and Auckland (60 in 1995).
Other memorable seasons for South Canterbury include 1950 and 1974 when they won the Ranfurly Shield. In 1977 they won 13 out of 15 games with a seven-match win streak. In 1991 they enjoyed a six-game winning streak.
The longest winning streak in New Zealand first class rugby belongs to Auckland who won 34 games in a row from 1987 to 1989. Following a loss to New South Wales in Sydney in 1989 they bettered that record with an unbeaten streak of 45 games from 1987-1991. Hawke’s Bay won 36 games in a row in the old Division II series from 2001 to 2004. Auckland holds the women’s record for most wins in a row with 71 between 1994 and 2006.
Ironically South Canterbury ended the Heartland unbeaten streak of Whanganui with a 21-17 victory on September 16, 2017. In their unbeaten streak, Whanganui outscored opponents 870-337 (114 tries). Stephen Perofeta became an All Black from the 2015 Meads Cup winning team.
Click HERE for the Bunnings Warehouse Heartland Championship fixtures and results for 2023.