The Chiefs (formerly known as the Waikato Chiefs) are a professional rugby union team based in Hamilton, New Zealand. Their primary home ground is FMG Stadium Waikato. The Chiefs play in black, red and yellow coloured jerseys. The team competes in the Super Rugby competition known as the Super 12 from 1996 to 2005, Super 14 from 2006 to 2010 and Super Rugby from 2011 onwards. The Chiefs are one of the competition's five New Zealand sides.
Until 2004, the Chiefs were the only New Zealand side to never have qualified for the Super 12 semi-finals. In that year the Chiefs earned their first semi-final berth, and in the end achieved fourth place (defeated 37–20 in the semi-final by the ACT Brumbies). They made the 2009 final but found themselves on the short end of a record 61–17 defeat by the Bulls.
The Chiefs were rewarded with a home final after a strong 2012 season. Their opponents, the Sharks, went into the match as underdogs. The Chiefs defeated the Sharks 37–6 winning their first Super Rugby title.
In 2013 the Chiefs became the 4th Super Rugby franchise to record back to back title wins when they defeated the Brumbies 27–22 in front of a full home crowd at FMG Stadium Waikato.
The Chiefs were founded in 1995 as the Waikato Chiefs for the inaugural Super 12 season in 1996. Prior to the Super 12, the Super 10 competition had been in place, which NPC teams took part in, including Waikato. In the first year of competition the Chiefs placed 6th in the overall standings, missing out on making the finals; winning 6 of their 11 regular season matches. The following season the Chiefs placed 11th, winning 4 games and losing 7. In 1998 the Chiefs performed closer to the standard of their 1996 season and placed at 7th in the final standings. In 1999 the side were able to do one better and claimed 6th position on the ladder but were still yet to make the playoffs.
In 2000 the Chiefs won 3 of their regular season games and finished the regular season in 10th place. The following season the team equalled their best position again – finishing 6th. In 2002 the team won 4 games and lost 7 to finish in 8th position, and the season after, 2003 Super 12 season, fell to a 10th place finish. But the season after, the Chiefs won 7 regular season games and came 4th on the ladder – claiming the first semi-final spot in their history. The Chiefs lost the semi-final against the Brumbies. In 2005 the team finished 6th. In 2006, the Super 12 expanded to the Super 14, with the addition of a new Australian and South African club. The Chiefs won 7 of their 13 games and drew once with 5 losses to come 7th. In 2009, the Chiefs made their second ever semi-final, defeating the Hurricanes 14 – 10 to advance to the final for the first time. They lost the final to the Bulls by the biggest-ever margin of 61–17. In the 2010 and 2011 seasons, they were unable to replicate their form of 2009, missing the playoffs in both seasons.
In 2012, following the disappointing results of previous years, the Chiefs underwent a significant change in personnel. This included the recruitment of new coaches, including Dave Rennie and Wayne Smith, and players, including Aaron Cruden, Ben Tameifuna, Brodie Retallick and Sonny Bill Williams. The changes had an immediate impact as the Chiefs finished at the top of the New Zealand conference, qualifying for a home semi-final, which they won, defeating the Crusaders 20–17. They subsequently hosted the final for the first time in the teams's history, comprehensively defeating the Sharks by 37 – 6, claiming their first title. They also set many club records in the 2012 season, including: most home wins, best home streak, best season winning streak, and most points and tries scored.
In 2013, the Chiefs again won the New Zealand conference with a regular-season record of 12 wins and four losses. They also won the BNZ Cup, a new trophy established by the NZRU for the New Zealand side with the best record in intra-conference matches.