The Chiefs History and Highlights.
Founded as the Waikato Chiefs for the inaugural season of Super 12 rugby, the Chiefs are a professional rugby union club from New Zealand. Prior to this, Waikato had been fielding its National Provincial Championship (NPC) side in the Super 10 competition from which Super 12 evolved.
Today, the chiefs are one of five New Zealand teams competing with teams from Australia, Fiji, and the Pacific Islands in the Super Rugby competition. Its home ground is FMG Stadium Waikato, and is distinguished by its black, red, and yellow jersey which reflects the Chiefs Country region.
For the first few years in Super 12, the chiefs mostly placed in the bottom to middle of the end-of-season standings. It wouldn’t be until the 2004 season that it would gain its first finals spot after finishing fourth on the ladder and making it to the semi-finals where they faced the Brumbies. Unfortunately, the Brumbies would win on this occasion.
For the years that followed, the Chiefs would again return to the middle of the rankings, where they would finish sixth in the final Super 12 season (2005), and seventh in the first Super 14 Season (2006) — a year which would see the addition of new clubs from Australia and South Africa.
Things would start to change in 2009, however, when the team made its first ever grand finals appearance after defeating the Hurricanes 14-10 in the semi-final. In the final, the chiefs faced the Bulls where they experienced a devastating loss, going down with just 17 points against the Bulls 61.
For the following seasons, the Chiefs would again resume its history of middling results which they were unable to turn around until major personnel changes were made for the 2012 season. This saw the arrival of coaches Dave Rennie and Wayne Smith, along with the recruitment of several new players such as Aaron Cruden, Ben Tameifuna, Brodie Retallick and Sonny Bill Williams.
It didn’t take long for the Chiefs’ new recruits to start making their presence felt on the field and, in that same year, the Chiefs would win their first-ever title, finishing as the top team in the New Zealand Super Rugby conference. This was also a season that saw the club hosting the final for the first time in its history, as well as setting many of its club records.
Proving that the 2012 season wasn’t just a fluke, the Chiefs then went on to back up its win with another in 2013. They would also take out the BNZ Cup, which was awarded by the NZRU to the best performing Super Rugby side competing in the New Zealand conference.
Unfortunately, these honors would be its last title in the Super Rugby competition. However, the team has since claimed further honors, such as becoming the first New Zealand rugby franchise to defeat an international team — a title it claimed after defeating a touring Wales side 40-7 in 2016. Three years later, this was capped off by making its eighth consecutive playoff appearance, taking the record for being the side with the most consecutive appearances.
Today, little has changed for the men’s team, which continues to compete in the Super Rugby competition. However, in 2021, the Chiefs made history with the addition of a women’s side for the inaugural Super Rugby Aupiki season — the first women’s Super Rugby competition. Known as the Waitomo Chiefs Manawa, the newly-birthed all-female side took out the inaugural 2022 season after defeating the Blues Women 39-12.
The team is also actively involved in the broader community and is proudly involved with children’s and youth organizations. It counts amongst its official partners The Waterboy, and Variety — two charities geared towards providing Kiwi kids in need with access to educational and sporting opportunities.