Overseas dominance: New Zealand's Super Rugby teams making history

By Niall Anderson

Matt Duffie celebrates a Blues victory in Australia. Photo / Photosport
Matt Duffie celebrates a Blues victory in Australia. Photo / Photosport

New Zealand's Super Rugby sides are winning overseas at a rate never seen before.

Away victories for the Highlanders, Blues and Crusaders this weekend have boosted the success rate of New Zealand sides on foreign soil in 2017 to a staggering 93.3 per cent - a massive increase on the historical rates in Super Rugby.

As the competition cuts back on teams - partly due to the overwhelming dominance of the New Zealand conference - the numbers show a distinct change in how New Zealand teams have doubled down on their reign atop the Super Rugby hierarchy.

Winning overseas used to be rare for New Zealand sides, yet over the past few seasons, victories on away trips have been drastically more common.

Before 2015, Kiwi sides had an overall winning record overseas in just seven out of 19 seasons - a lacklustre figure that expectedly extends all the rugby nations (Winning in a different country, is, or was, an obviously difficult task).

In the history of Super Rugby, only one team holds a winning record when playing games overseas. That side is the Crusaders, who have won 54.7 per cent of their trips on foreign soil. The Hurricanes (47.7 per cent) are the only other side to have won more than 42 per cent of their overseas trips.

As a result of those formerly tough trips, the historical record of New Zealand sides playing overseas is a mixed bag.

Since the dawn of Super Rugby, New Zealand sides have won 43.3 per cent of their games in Australia, and 45.6 per cent of their contests in South Africa. Add in a 100 per cent record in Argentina and Japan, and Kiwi teams hold an overseas winning percentage of 44.9 per cent.

Although that figure compares favourably to the overseas record of Australian teams (30.1 per cent) and South African sides (25.9 per cent), it was much lower in previous years, when a trip to South Africa or Australia was a much trickier proposition.

For instance, in 1996, the opening year of Super Rugby, NZ sides won just 11.1 per cent of overseas encounters. In 2001, Kiwi teams won 17.6 per cent, in 2010 just 29.2 per cent, and even as recently as 2014 NZ teams struggled overseas; victorious in 30.4 per cent of encounters.

That 18 year sample has suddenly shifted however. Since 2015, New Zealand teams have continued their usual home domination, but have enjoyed increasing success on their travels.

In the past three seasons, Kiwi teams have won 70.8 per cent of their overseas games, with every team holding a winning record on their overseas adventures. The Chiefs (10-4), Hurricanes (9-2), Crusaders (10-3) and Highlanders (10-4) have all recorded a winning rate which far exceeds their historical norms, while the Blues (5-5-1) have improved of late.

In that same time frame, Australian teams have won 18.6 per cent of their games held overseas, and South African sides 37.5 per cent.

With New Zealand teams continually difficult to beat in New Zealand, and now increasingly tough to topple overseas, their overseas rivals will be hoping the new Super Rugby format can restore some parity to proceedings.

- NZ Herald

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