Updated 11 months ago

Whether you’re an amateur player or just a fan, many sports are easily accessible in New Zealand. Rugby, cricket, golf and sailing are all very popular with Kiwis. Netball, basketball, rowing and football are also prevalent. Adventure sports are big in New Zealand, as is general health and fitness with cycling, hiking, and gym classes like yoga.


Rugby is the most popular professional sport followed in New Zealand. There are two types of rugby played in the country, rugby union and rugby league, each with slightly different game play rules. Rugby union is the more followed of the two. The All Blacks are the national rugby union team, and they won the last two Rugby World Cups in 2011 and 2015. The Kiwis are the national rugby league team and won the 2008 Rugby World Cup. Rugby matches are held regularly in most cities, and broadcast on television.


Cricket is New Zealand’s main summer sport, second in popularity only to rugby. The national men’s cricket team is nicknamed the Black Caps and the women’s is the White Ferns. Cricket matches and national competitions are held regularly in stadiums and sports grounds, and professional matches and tournaments are broadcast on television. New Zealand is one of only ten countries that participates in ‘Test Cricket,’ which is the long form version of the game, considered to be the highest standard.


The third most popular men’s team sport, and fifth most popular for women, is football. Most spectator football in New Zealand is played in the semi-professional Stirling Sports Premiership, with the Wellington Phoenix being the one pro team in the country who actually play in the Australian National Soccer League. There is also national team for world cups, nicknamed the All Whites, that is made up of professional players who often play abroad during the regular season and come back to the team for the international tournaments. There are many local football teams and clubs to join as an amateur. Australian rules football is also played in New Zealand, as well as American football.


Golf is also practised professionally in New Zealand, with the New Zealand Open tournament held annually. Most recently this took place at Millbrook Resort in Arrowtown, just outside Queenstown. Other smaller tournaments are held throughout the year around the country. There are many golf courses in both the North and South Island for professionals and amateurs alike. You can join a club and have access to necessary materials and equipment at affordable prices.


With so much coastline, and many cities near the seaside, sailing is another major sport in New Zealand. Many people have their own boats to practice at their leisure outside of work hours. There are also sailing clubs you can join in almost every city in New Zealand. Professionally, New Zealand participated in the 2017 America’s Cup yacht race and were able to reclaim the trophy, or Auld Mug, for the first time since 2003. The around-the-world Volvo Ocean Race held every three years goes through Auckland and is viewable from the harbour.

Other sports

Netball, tennis and swimming are the most popular sports taken up by women. Rowing is also popular in the country, as is basketball. More non-traditional sports like mountain biking and mountaineering are also widely practised by Kiwis, and in fact it was Kiwi climber Sir Edmund Hillary that was the first to summit Mt. Everest. Skiing and snowboarding are major winter past times on both the volcanoes of the North Island and the Alps of the South Island.

 Useful links:

New Zealand Rugby
New Zealand All Blacks
New Zealand Black Caps
Stirling Sports Premiership
New Zealands American Football Federation
PGA - New Zealand
Yachting NZ

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