Most of the time, Australia and New Zealand have the kind of friendly rivalry you’d expect from Antipodean siblings. We mock each other’s accents, achievements and sporting prowess and squabble over who owns star exports such as Crowded House and Russell Crowe. Only on the sporting field do we get truly competitive, and never more so than at rugby union’s Bledisloe Cup, now part of the Tri Nations series. The pride of two countries is at stake when Australia’s Wallabies face New Zealand’s All Blacks. Catch one of the history-making matches, where some of the world’s best players decide which country is really top of the Tasman.
There’s no sitting on the fence at a Bledisloe match, which is held in Australia at least once a year as part of the Tri Nations tournament. Even before play has begun, relations between Australian fans in green-and-gold and their NZ counterparts in black-and-silver can get very feisty. Watch the Wallabies sing Australia’s national anthem and the All-Blacks respond with their fearsome haka. Crowds love this traditional Maori war dance, which includes feet-stomping, thigh-slapping and widened eyes to the cry of ‘Ka mate, ka mate’ (I live, I live) ‘Ka ora Ka ora’ (I die, I die).
It’s all part of a fierce sporting battle that began in 1931, when Lord Bledisloe, New Zealand’s then Governor-General, donated the Bledisloe Cup. Since then the majestic silver cup, the largest in world rugby, has travelled back and forth across the Tasman, and contested 44 times over 100 test matches. New Zealand has won it 32 times, while Australia has claimed it on 12 occasions. The wins are more evenly spread across the matches played on Australian soil since the Tri Nations was introduced in 1996.
Before this time Bledisloe clashes were sporadic, but Australia and New Zealand now meet at least three times a year on a home-and-away basis. You can catch one, and sometimes two, of these mesmerising matches in Australian stadiums, from Sydney to Melbourne to Brisbane. The Bledisloe went outside the Tasman for the first time in 2008, for a well-attended fourth game in Hong Kong. Tokyo hosted a fourth game in 2009, and the Bledisloe will return to Hong Kong for the final match of 2010.
Australia has been the stage for many big Bledisloe moments. In 2010, the All Blacks claimed victory after an exciting game in Melbourne, also the venue for a convincing Wallabies win in 2007. In September 2001, Toutai Kefu scored the winning try for Australia at a historic match in Sydney. In 2000 a record crowd of more than 100,000 people witnessed what many fans believe is still rugby’s greatest ever match. By half time Australia had managed to draw level with the All Blacks, negating the 24-nil lead the Kiwis had established just 11 minutes into the game. The two sides remained neck-and-neck until Jonah Lomu scored the try that sealed the All Blacks 39-35 victory. Australia kept the cup in the next dramatic match, when John Eales kicked a last-minute goal from the sidelines.
Don’t miss the chance to be a part of this riveting rugby tradition. See neighbours, allies and friends face each other as fierce sporting rivals at Australia’s next Bledisloe Cup.