Back in the old days, a big rugby match was a novelty - but now it's wall to wall

The All Blacks will play 14 test matches in 2017.
CHRISTIAAN KOTZE/PHOTOSPORT

The All Blacks will play 14 test matches in 2017.

ANALYSIS: Are there too many rugby games on these days? Sports reporter Scott Donaldson looks at how the number of top level rugby matches has increased in the last 40 years.

It used to be a treat to watch a top level game of rugby, but seeing the empty seats at many Super Rugby and Mitre 10 Cup games this season makes you wonder if there are too many games on.

The All Blacks play only three more matches this year than in 1977, despite being in the professional era. The difference is they play a lot more tests than their predecessors.

All Black Tane Norton with the ball against the Lions in 1977.
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All Black Tane Norton with the ball against the Lions in 1977.

The top level season now runs for 10 months rather than seven, while Super Rugby sees top level players involved in 15 more regular season games and travelling more than they used to, meaning fewer breaks for fans and players.

READ MORE: Room for new faces in All Blacks

1977 - All Blacks six tests, seven tour games and 55 NPC first division games

Phil Bennett is despondent after Laurie Knight scores the series-sealing try in the fourth test between the All Blacks ...
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Phil Bennett is despondent after Laurie Knight scores the series-sealing try in the fourth test between the All Blacks and British and Irish Lions at Eden Park in 1977.

The All Blacks played only six test matches in 1977, but seven further games on their end-of-year tour to Italy and France, while there were also North vs South Zone games and All Blacks trials.

The All Blacks played four home test matches against the touring British and Irish Lions.

The NPC was in its second season, with 11 teams playing 10 games each in division one, with a total of 55 games.

The Lions tour began in May, while the All Blacks played their last tour game on November 19, in the second test against France.

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1987 - All Blacks seven tests, five tour games and 55 NPC first division games.

The highlight of the 1987 season was the inaugural Rugby World Cup, which saw the All Blacks win all six test matches and claim the title.

They also played a test against Australia and five matches in Japan.

Two All Blacks trials, along with three zone matches with players from the North, South and Central regions were also played.

The NPC competition featured 55 games, with 11 teams in the first division playing 10 regular season games each.

1997 - All Blacks 12 tests and five tour games, 69 Super Rugby games and 39 NPC first division games.

In 1997, top level rugby started in February, while the end-of-year-tour didn't finish till December.

The All Blacks played test matches against Fiji, Argentina and Australia, along with the Tri Nations tests against Australia and South Africa.

The end-of-year-tour of Ireland, Wales and England featured four tests and five tour games.

Super Rugby teams played 11 round-robin games followed by finals.

The nine-team NPC involved teams playing eight games each, followed by play-offs.

2007 - All Blacks 12 tests, 94 Super Rugby games and 77 NPC first division games

The All Blacks only played five tests at the Rugby World Cup after a disappointing early exit. They also played three domestic test matches and four Tri Nations games.

Super 14 Rugby saw each team play 13 regular season games followed by the finals, with 94 matches in total.

There were also 77 matches in NPC rugby featuring 14 teams, with 10 regular season games per team.

2017 - All Blacks 14 tests, two tour games, 142 Super Rugby games and 76 NPC rugby games

The All Blacks played three tests against the Lions, six Rugby Championship tests, a test against Samoa and will finish their season with a third Bledisloe Cup test and three end-of-season tests as part of a five-match tour.  

The Super Rugby season included 142 games, with each team playing 15 regular season games.

The NPC includes 76 matches, including 10 regular season fixtures plus play-off games.

Super Rugby kicked off in February and finished in August, while the All Blacks will play their last game of the season on November 26.

 - Stuff

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