New Zealand's National Provincial Championship was first contested in 1976. The tournament's top division was contested by seven sides from the north island and four from the south, with the bottom placed side from the north island being relegated into division two and the bottom side from the south island playing a play-off against the winners of the southern second division.
In 1985 the second division was united, meaning automatic promotion and relegation for the top and bottom placed sides. This format remained until 1992, when three sides were relegated from division one, making an even nine teams per division. Also in 1992 a semi-final play-off system was introduced to determine the winner, with a league system having been used to this point.
In 1998 the number of teams changed again, with the first division being upgraded to ten teams. Also in 1998 automatic relegation was ended, with the bottom side in the first division playing the second division winners to determine if a change would take place. Auckland were the most successful team in the NPC championship, having won 15 of the 30 tournaments.
In 2006 the NPC was replaced by the Air New Zealand Cup and Heartland Championship. The NPC third division was abolished, as was promotion and relegation between the Heartland Championship and New Zealand Cup. And in 2010, the title sponsorship of the competition was taken on by ITM.
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Air New Zealand Cup
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