The Chiefs are a New Zealand professional rugby union team that hails from Hamilton, Waikato. The side participates in the Super Rugby competition as one of five New Zealand-based teams. The Chiefs are coached by Clayton McMillan, who has coached the side since 2021.
The Chiefs rose to the pinnacle of the competition in 2012, one of the biggest highlights of their history, when they played a final at their home ground. They won the final against the Sharks, which was their first ever Super Rugby title. The following season in 2013, the team succeeded in recording back-to-back title wins, once again at their home ground Waikato Stadium, after beating the Brumbies 27–22.
Since 1999, the Chiefs have represented the provincial unions of Bay of Plenty, Counties Manukau, King Country, Taranaki, Thames Valley and Waikato. From 1996 to 1998 the Chiefs also represented North Harbour and Northland, with Counties Manukau and Thames Valley falling under the Auckland Blues catchment. There was some contention here between the Blues and Chiefs about unfairness. The NZRU set out to resolve this by handing the Chiefs the regions of North Harbour and Northland and the Blues Counties Manukau and Thames Valley.
The NZRU founded the Chiefs in 1996, then known as the Waikato Chiefs, and in that year they played in the first ever Super 12 (now known as Super Rugby) season. Their first season was a decent one in which they finished 6th on the ladder.
Unfortunately, though, they did not make it to the playoff stage, and a year later in 1997 they endured a worse season, finishing 11th overall. The following two years saw the Chiefs place 7th and 6th respectively, but it was still not enough to advance to the playoffs.
In 2004, the Chiefs enjoyed their best season since their creation, finishing 4th and advancing to the semi-finals, which they lost to the Brumbies. They then had to wait a few years until reaching the playoffs again in 2009. That year, the Chiefs narrowly beat the Hurricanes 14–10 to go one better than 2004 and advance to their first final. They ended up losing the final to the Bulls 61–17, in what was quite a humiliation. Nevertheless, the Chiefs would soon go on to build on this season.
After a few disappointing years, the Chiefs enjoyed a fantastic campaign in 2012 under the head coaches Dave Rennie and Wayne Smith. They came out on top in the New Zealand conference at the end of the regular season and advanced to the semi-finals. They played the semi-final match at their home ground, beating the Crusaders 20–17 in a hard-fought contest and earning a home final for the first time. In the final, they played the Sharks, and unlike the previous game, the Chiefs beat them with relative ease by a scoreline of 37–6. This was their first Super Rugby trophy, one which they would immediately add to the following season when they beat the Brumbies in the 2013 final.
In recent years, the Chiefs have enjoyed successful seasons, though they have been unable to replicate their title wins. They lost the final in 2021 to the Crusaders as well as the 2022 semi-final, again to the Crusaders.
The Chiefs squad for the 2023 Super Rugby Pacific season consists of the following players:
The coaching staff consists of the following:
The Chiefs’ main home ground is FMG Stadium Waikato, which has a capacity of 26,000. The Chiefs sometimes play their home games at Yarrow Stadium, Rotorua International Stadium, Navigation Homes Stadium, and ASB Baypark Stadium.
The NZRU owns the Chiefs as one of its subsidiaries. Privatisation was introduced in 2013 to bring more profit and in the process the Chiefs Rugby Club Limited Partnership was established to run the club. The Chiefs ownership is split between the provincial unions within the Chiefs’ catchment and a group of private investors. One of these private investors is Taranaki Rugby Union, which means that the Chiefs play two matches per year at Yarrow Stadium in New Plymouth.
For more information about the Chiefs, including their upcoming fixtures and all the latest news and updates, visit the team’s official website.