We are on the eve of one of the greatest rivalries in club rugby. Tomorrow, the Glass House (The Forsyth Barr Stadium) in Dunedin will host the match between the Highlanders and the Crusaders; one of the biggest clashes in rugby.
So this is the perfect time to look at some of the biggest rivalries in non-test rugby.
Highlanders vs Crusaders
It goes further than just being neighbours between these two. The Highlanders put the rivalry between Otago and Southland aside to represent the Southern side of the South Island, the Crusaders represent the North of the island.
There is a huge rivalry in all sports between Otago University in Dunedin, the oldest university in the Southern hemisphere, and Canterbury University in Christchurch, the second oldest university in New Zealand. This rivalry can be compared to Oxford to Cambridge in many ways and infuses the rest of the Otago – Canterbury rivalry.
Bath vs Leicester
For decades these two university towns dominated English rugby, and to this day they are always to be found near the top. The matches between them have a great sense of occasion and fans watch out for them with trepidation.
It is not unusual for matches between the two sides to result in a number of players being put on the naughty step or even being asked to take an early shower, such is the passion and desire to win in these games.
Biarritz Olympique vs Aviron Bayonne
After Biarritz’s relegation, the match is not played as often as it once was, but this clash of the Basques is as hot as you can get them. Rugby is big in the Pyrenees, both on the French and the Spanish side, as well as in Catalonia and in the Basque Country. Bayonne and Biarritz are sworn rivals, as only neighbours can be.
In 2013 and 2015 Bayonne president Manu Merin tried to merge the clubs, but he was met with heavy resistance. Threats were even made against him and his family over it. Rest assured there is no love lost between these two clubs.
Silverstorm El Salvador Valladolid vs VRAC Valladolid
Valladolid is one of Spain’s rugby strongholds and it boasts two top clubs, El Salvador and VRAC. Since their foundation, these clubs have been bitter rivals.
This year the rivalry was on display to the world when they played at El Estadio José Zorrilla de Valladolid for the 83rd Copa del Rey. King Felipe was present, as well as many high ranking officials, but the fans of both sides outranked all of them.
In typical rugby style they were sitting comfortably alongside each other, even with passions running high between these two city rivals.
Sharks vs Bulls
There is something more here than these teams being arguably the best in South Africa. There is something else that makes them even more bitter rivals than either of them and the Stormers.
Cape Town, and indeed the Western Cape, are very mixed places, combining both English and Afrikaans and African, but Sharks vs Bulls is Durban vs Pretoria. It is Rooinek vs Boer, English vs Dutch. With that sort of history any encounter between them is naturally explosive and neither side wants to lose and rip open old wounds.
Queensland Reds vs New South Wales Waratahs
Possibly the original rivalry in Super Rugby since its inception.
There is nothing to rival the two knocking seven bells out of each other.
The most famous example of this rivalry between New South Wales and Queensland comes in rugby league, with the State of Origin, but in Union these matches are equally loaded.
Leinster vs Munster
The biggest matches at Lansdowne Road were perhaps not those of the Irish team, but those between Leinster and Munster. With the new stadium at Lansdowne Road, the RDS and Thomond Park are abuzz when the two biggest and strongest provinces of Ireland play each other.
Beside it being Limerick and Cork vs Dublin, there was something else to these games for years. Traditionally, the majority of the Irish national team’s forwards are from Munster, while the majority of the backs are from Leinster. While the nature of the game has changed a bit, for years it was Leinster’s backs vs Munster’s pack, agility and speed vs force and hard work.
Of course there are many more rivalries that could be named, like Glasgow vs Edinburgh, Swansea vs Llanelli and Cornish Pirates vs Exeter Chiefs, or even cross border rivals RC Tilburg vs RC Pitbulls Arendonk, but we cannot include all in our list.
Do you know any rivalries to match these in our list? Then leave them in the comments.
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