James Mortimer 11.Jan.2014Getty Images
Few would know that it was Marlborough that dominated the seven-man game when the National tournament began in Aotearoa, winning in 1975 and 1976.
The great region, known by most for their fine wines (a remarkable reputation considering their youth by classical viticulture measures), did not merely capture the first and second championships for the National Sevens, but the team now recognised as Tasman were the power of the South at the time.
Marlborough even held the Ranfurly Shield over the summer of 1973, but we digress.
In 1977 the third National Sevens was held in Blenheim, the tournament’s first placement outside a major centre, and Manawatu embarked on domination of the championship, lasting three years as Hamilton and Palmerston North gained hosting privileges.
It wasn’t until 1980 that a traditional superpower would taste success, with Auckland winning their first title.
The success of the ‘minnows’ very much encapsulated the spirit of Sevens, where being a big gun was no guarantee of glory – a level playing field beyond what we normally associate with top level rugby.
Taranaki, Counties, North Harbour, Waikato, Canterbury, Wellington have all joined the winner’s circle.
While at the turn of the century Palmerston North gave way to Queenstown, and now the Bay of Plenty will enjoy hosting right for the immediate future.
The shift from the iconic recreation ground to the Rotorua International Ground was, in a sense, a sign of the times.
Few would have predicted the growth of the event, from casual interest to crowds 10,000 strong, in a sport that has grown astronomically over the last 15 years.
The Sevens World Series are now a colourful chapter of rugby’s annual feast, while in a little over two years there will be Olympic Gold Medals on offer.
Taranaki's mens title last year broke a stranglehold the upper North Island had on the competition.
In 2006 Auckland went back-to-back for the third time, drawing level with North Harbour as the most successful team.
The following year Auckland would join Manawatu, Waikato and Harbour as the only union to win three National Sevens titles on the trot.
The blue and whites, a regenerative marvel remaining competitive despite constant turnover of players, hold a record 11 crowns.
The last time a South Island team won was in 1993, via Canterbury.
ROLL OF HONOUR
1975 Marlborough Auckland
1976 Marlborough Christchurch
1977 Manawatu Blenheim
1978 Manawatu Hamilton
1979 Manawatu Palmerston North
1980 Auckland Palmerston North
1981 Taranaki Palmerston North
1982 Taranaki Feilding
1983 Auckland Feilding
1984 Auckland Feilding
1985 Counties Feilding
1986 North Harbour Feilding
1987 North Harbour Christchurch
1988 Auckland Pukekohe
1989 Auckland Palmerston North
1990 Canterbury Palmerston North
1991 Auckland Palmerston North
1992 North Harbour Palmerston North
1993 Canterbury Palmerston North
1994 Counties Palmerston North
1995 Counties Palmerston North
1996 Waikato Palmerston North
1996 Waikato Palmerston North
1997 Waikato Rotorua
1998 Waikato Rotorua
1999 North Harbour Palmerston North
2000 North Harbour Palmerston North
2001 North Harbour Palmerston North
2002 Wellington Palmerston North
2003 No event -
2004 North Harbour Queenstown
2005 Auckland Queenstown
2006 Auckland Queenstown
2007 Auckland Queenstown
2008 Auckland Queenstown
2009 North Harbour Queenstown
2010 Waikato Queenstown
2011 Auckland Queenstown
2012 Auckland Queenstown
2013 Taranaki Queenstown