The ITM Cup is the latest format of New Zealand's premier domestic rugby competition, which started as the NPC (National Provincial Competition).
The NPC has been a feature of NZ rugby since 1976. It has changed the way it is played a number of times over the years. There have been up to 3 Divisions at times, with promotion relegation between Divisions happening. Since 1992 there have been semi-finals and a final in each Division.
In 2016, the ITM Cup has 2 Divisions - the Premiership and the Championship. Each Division has 7 teams in it. Within this framework there is a unique format whereby teams will play all other teams in their own Division as well as 4 of the teams from the other Division. This keeps up some of the long established, traditional provincial rivalries.
Following the pool play, both competitions have the top 4 teams playing off in Semi-finals and a Final.
The History of the ITM Cup
The ITM Cup is the premier domestic rugby competition in New Zealand. It started as the Air New Zealand Cup in 2006 and this followed on from the NPC (National Provincial Championship), which was started in 1976.
In 2006, with the formation of the Tasman Union (an amalgamation of Nelson Bays and Marlborough Unions for representative rugby only) the format went to 14 teams in Division 1 and 12 teams in Division 2. There would be no promotion relegation involved and the 2 Divisions were to be 2 separate competitions - the Air NZ Cup and the Heartland Championship.
In 2006, the Air NZ Cup competition was split into 2 pools of 7 teams. Within each pool teams played each other once. The top 3 teams from each pool then combined for a second round. The other 4 teams from each pool formed 2 repechage groups.
In the top group, teams played 3 games against the 3 teams they had not already played. Positions were then determined by total points for the season up to then.
In the repechage groups, teams played each other and the top team from each group then joined with the top 6 teams to play Quarter-finals, Semi-finals and the Final.
In 2007 and 2008 the 14 teams played 10 games, therefore not playing all of the other teams. They then played Quarter-finals, Semi-finals and a Final.
In 2009 and 2010 the teams played all the other teams (13 games) and then Semi-finals and Final.
In 2011, the 14 teams were split into a Premiership and a Championship Division. Each had 7 teams in it. The split was based on the finishing positions from 2010. In each Division, teams played all teams in their own group and 4 teams from the other Division. Due to the Rugby World Cup no Semi-finals were played. The winner of the Championship was promoted with the bottom placed Premiership team being relegated.
In 2012 the same format was played, with the exception that there were Semi-Finals included. In 2013, 2014 and 2015 this same format was followed.
2016 saw a change in sponsorship, with the competition becoming the Mitre 10 Cup. The same format was used as for the previous 5 years.