Super Rugby refers to biggest professional rugby union in the Southern Hemisphere. This wasn’t a one time founding, but Super Rugby is built off of a series of old traditions starting all the way back with the South Pacific Championship from 1986. Getting a stable and steady championship format proved difficult, but over time it eventually became the modern form of Super Rugby which features 15 teams from three countries: Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa.
Prior to the current model of Super Rugby there were several smaller attempts to create a professional unified rugby competition to help determine a yearly world champion for the region. In 1991 there was no tournament because of the South Pacific Tournament being canceled. This led to the Super 6 being created.
The Super 6 consisted of three teams from New Zealand, two from Australia, and one from Fiji and played a championship in 1992, which was won by the Reds from Brisbane. The very next year the interest led to rapid expansion with the Super 6 turning into the Super 10.
The Super 10 still featured multiple teams from both Australia and New Zealand, but South Africa was admitted back into international competition with three teams including the Lions who eventually won that season. Fiji was replaced by Western Samoa as the Pacific Nations representative. This format held for three years, with the Reds once again taking the last two until 1996 when they expanded to 12 teams.
Keeping with the number themes this competition became the Super 12 and this lasted through 2005. This also marked an important moment with SANZAR (South African, New Zealand and Australian Rugby) being founded as a governing body to operate the competition, set up how play-off tournaments would be done, and expansion when necessary.
Australian and New Zealand teams dominated during this time, taking all of the titles from 1996 to 2005 with the Blues, Brumbies, and Crusaders combining for all the championships during that time period. In 2006 expansion was made to the Super 14 and in 2007 the Bulls out of Pretoria, South Africa broke the Australian-New Zealand dominance by ending the season as champions.
The year 2009 saw expansion to 15 teams under the current name of Super Rugby, doing away with numbers and now unified under one brand. The old round robin method was done away with in favor of home and away games based on a regional format, with points based on wins, losses, ties and bonus points based on the overall scores and number of tries scored in a game, The top six teams at the end of the season then play in a three week finals series with seedings based on overall standing.
This allows a set up where the best teams still get to play while making every game important. Due to the popularity of Super Rugby there are discussions for further expansion in the future, including talks of more Australian and South African teams, as well as possibly a Pacific Island squad or Argentina.