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New Zealand’s Newest Rugby Union

The Tasman Rugby Union was formed in December 2005 to allow the region to field a team in the premier 2006 national provincial competition (then known as the Air New Zealand Cup).

The “Mako”, as the Union’s team is known, was an amalgamation of the Nelson Bays and Marlborough Rugby Unions, thereby becoming New Zealand’s newest provincial union.

Nelson is The Home of Rugby in New Zealand, being where the first ever competitive rugby match took place in May 1870 at The Botanics between a Nelson College side and Nelson Football Club.

The Nelson Bays Rugby Sub-Union, founded in 1969 and whose representative team is known as “The Griffins”, is in itself an amalgamation of the Nelson and Golden Bays Rugby Unions founded in 1885 (becoming the nation’s sixth provincial union) and 1920 respectively.

The Marlborough Rugby Sub-Union, founded in 1888 and known as the “Red Devils”, has a proud rugby heritage including holding the storied Ranfurly Shield for six defenses in 1973.

Our two venues are Lansdowne Park in Blenheim, which was completely revamped in early 2006 to meet NZRU standards, and Trafalgar Park in Nelson which underwent a major upgrade to secure the hosting of two matches in the 2011 RWC and which was largely completed in time for the 2010 NPC season, now known as the Mitre 10 Cup.

As a national provincial union, we are a feeder to the Crusaders Super Rugby franchise based in Christchurch. Our players however are also represented in the Highlanders, Chiefs and Blues.

The Tasman Makos won the 2013 ITM Championship Cup and in 2014 contested the ITM Cup Premiership Division final, and the 2016 and 2017 Mitre 10 Cup Premiership Division finals.

The major competitive breakthrough for the Union came in December 2018 with the winning of the National Sevens Championship title in Taupo, and in October 2019 with the Tasman Mako being crowned the Mitre 10 Cup Premiership winners after an Undefeated 12 game season. The Mako went back-to-back winning the 2020 Premiership Cup with a thrilling 13-12 victory against favourites Auckland..

These teams were superbly captained by David Havili under the coaching helm of Andrew Goodman & Clarke Dermody, Shane Christie & Gray Cornelius.

The team continues to capture the hearts and minds of fans locally, nationally and beyond, by playing an adventurous brand of rugby.

On-field performance has also been reflected in the numbers of Mako players receiving Super contracts, consistently now at about 20 players per season, and the numbers going on to earn higher representative honours including All Blacks Sevens, Maori All Blacks and All Blacks selection.

Since 2016, ten players have played Test rugby for New Zealand – Liam Squire, Kane Hames, David Havili, Tim Perry, Shannon Frizell, Tyrel Lomax, Atunaisa Moli, Will Jordan, Ethan Blackadder & Finlay Christie.

None of these achievements would be possible without a vast array of financial support, from NZ Rugby, our Sponsors, Members and season ticket purchasers, and our community trust fund and gaming fund partners.

After 14 years of existence, the Tasman Rugby Union is successful and innovative, aspiring to be a Top 4 national provincial Union, by any criteria.

Our Badge of Courage .. The Mako

Our team is named after the Mako shark or ‘blue lightening’ as it is called because of its colour and speed. It is found throughout NZ, however the waters of Cook Strait, Marlborough and Tasman Bay are the most prevalent hunting grounds for these awesome predators.

Maori greatly admired the Mako due to its legendary tenacity and willingness to fight to the last. The Mako are also renowned for their speed, strength and agility – the same qualities that our rugby team has become renowned for. 

Our Region – The Top of the South

Our region, colloquially known as the Top of the South, or Te Tau Ihu by Maori, encompasses Nelson and Abel Tasman, Marlborough and Kaikoura.

Maori occupation dates back some 800 years, while European settlement occurred in 1842. Eight Iwi groups claim ancestral occupation rights, or rights of conquest over areas in this region

The region is acknowledged as having the most sunshine hours of any region in the country. We are surrounded by awe inspiring coastal areas including idyllic Abel Tasman National Park, the pristine Golden and Nelson bays, stunning Marlborough Sounds and playful, eco-friendly Kaikoura.

Our Purpose

Our reason for being is to Inspire and Connect our Community by nurturing a life-long love of the Game.

We provide talented players, coaches, referees and administrators with pathways to fulfill their aspirations and potential.

We bring enjoyment and excitement to our fans through a positive Brand and match day experience. We make all people of the region feel good and proud when we play well.

Since Tasman RU’s foundation from 2006, the Union has produced :

10 All Blacks – Liam Squire (All Black # 1151), Kane Hames (# 1152), David Havili (# 1161), Tim Perry (# 1162), Atunaisa Moli (# 1168), Shannon Frizell (# 1172), Tyrel Lomax (#1180), Will Jordan (# 1191), Ethan Blackadder (# 1195) & Finlay Christie (# 1196).

14 Maori All Blacks – Greg Feek, Ben May, Quentin MacDonald, Kade Poki, Shane Christie, Liam Squire, Joe Wheeler, James Lowe, Billy Guyton, Kane Hames, Tyrel Lomax, Pari Pari Parkinson, Alex Nankivell & Jacob Norris.

9 NZ Sevens – Shane Christie, James Marshall, Bryce Heem, Trael Joass, Tone Ng Shiu, Andrew Knewstubb, Tima Fainga'anuku, Te Puoho Stephens, Jamie Spowart. 

3 Black Fern Sevens - Moana Forbes, Jessica Drummond, Riseleanna Pouri-Lane.

Our Values

We value our fan and supporter base above all else. Without people sponsoring the Union or attending Mako matches, we are nothing. 

We all live by 3 core values:

Belong in Humility

We earn our keep each day with our every action. We are humble. Here we each belong equally.

Trailblaze to Thrive

We are innovative. We grow by relentlessly pursuing new ideas with excellence and trust in each other

Unassailable Grit 

We are tough and persevere no matter the obstacles. With every action we take, we grow stronger.

As a Union and a team, we value excellence in everything we do, on- and off the field. We put team ahead of self. Our actions speak louder than words.

Above all, we are all passionate about rugby – our sponsors and supporters, our community, our clubs, schools and representative teams, and the Mako. We all care deeply about our performance on and off the field.

Although not a wealthy Union we do our best to give back to the community through charitable donations, mainly of season ticket offers to raffle or auction, to good causes and fundraisers, especially to schools and junior rugby clubs.


The History

2019 Mitre 10 Cup

After just 14 seasons, the Tasman Mako have reached the pinnacle of New Zealand provincial rugby. The Premiership final victory must rank as the finest day for rugby at the top of the South Island since Marlborough stunned the nation with the 1973 Ranfurly Shield upset of Canterbury.

2019 Farah Palmer Cup

Tasman won two games and are gradually gaining experience in the Farah Palmer Cup competition. Again, the team was led by Jessica Foster-Lawrence and again she was the outstanding forward. Leah Miles, aged 17, is a highly promising flanker

2020 Farah Palmer Cup

The change in competition format to north-south pools meant further issues for Mako, a union still in its infancy in establishing a competitive Farah Palmer Cup squad. This resulted in heavy losses to the well-established teams.

2020 Mitre 10 Cup

The Tasman Mako recorded back-to-back Premiership triumphs — the first province, other than Canterbury, to repeat since Auckland in 2002–03.

2018 Mitre 10 Cup

After finishing the round robin in second place, with their best ever record of nine wins and just one defeat, Tasman’s season ended with a disappointing home defeat to Canterbury in the Premiership semi-final

2018 Farah Palmer Cup

The 65-12 win over Taranaki in the first game was to be the only cause for celebration in 2018, the Mako being well beaten in the other five games. The union lost Rosie Buchanan-Brown to Otago but gained former Manawatu representatives Crystal Mayes and Hayley Hutana

2017 Mitre 10 Cup

For the third time in the last four years, Tasman went all the way to the Premiership Final to indicate a successful season, but it was one of mixed effort.

2017 Farah Palmer Cup

Tasman was a welcome addition to a steadily expanding competition. The debutants produced a very encouraging result in the opening game, against Waikato, then took a hammering from Otago in the second round. The win in the final game, against Hawke’s Bay, would have installed confidence in the team

2016 Mitre 10 Cup

For the second time in three years the Tasman Makos went all the way to the Premiership Final, losing to Canterbury in a gallant effort. There were two defeats in the opening four matches, but after that the side hit form, remaining unbeaten until the Final.

2015 ITM Cup

Hopes of going 1 better than "Cup runners-up" were high. Things started well with 6 wins, but this was followed up by 3 defeats - the last round win over the Naki meant a semi-finals trip to Auckland & they were the "in form" team. All up another good year for the MIGHTY Makos.

2014 ITM CUP

Your Mighty Makos have had a stellar first season in the ITM Cup Premiership. We are proud to host a Semi-Final in our first year playing the Big City Unions. Make home ground advantage count tonight .. let’s have LOTS OF NOISE in support of your MIGHTY TASMAN MAKOS!

2013 ITM CUP

Culminating with winning the ITM Cup Championship Final, 2013 was the most remarkable season in the Tasman Makos eight years since inception. Team and personal bests have been broken at every turn.

2011 ITM CUP

Two wins might seem poor return for the season – but it depends on you point of view. Those two wins were against the eventual Championship winner Hawke’s Bay and Auckland. No other team scored as many as the five tries that Tasman did against eventual Premiership winner Canterbury.

2012 ITM CUP

Beginning the season with a victory over their Crusaders stable mate Canterbury, recording one of the highest scores in an unsuccessful Ranfurly Shield challenge, then another couple of quick wins and here was the making of a good season.

2010 ITM CUP

Until the last game of the season Tasman had provided staunch competition to all opponents. Gone to greener pastures were some of last year’s better performers including captain Andrew Goodman.


Six victories from the first ten matches was a promising start, but results fell away over the last three matches of the competition. Sadly there was always the suspicion that no matter how well Tasman played there was always the threat of relegation at season’s end.


The on field performance of Tasman were in contrast to the off field turbulence surrounding them. The characteristics Todd Blackadder showed as a player and captain – that of calm controlled management – were evident in his performance as Tasman’s coach.


That Tasman scored less and conceded more in the latter part of the season was not an indication of lack of progress but rather it was how the draw had treated them. Name players had come and gone, but in truth the strength of Tasman was in its local players.


Tasman Union was formed from the amalgation of Nelson Bays and Malborough unions with the specific intention of meeting the criteria for the new premier division of New Zealand rugby.