Touch New Zealand will implement a new structure for the NZSS Touch Nationals for 2019.

The Zonal Qualifying Tournaments will not be held and a new qualifying structure based upon 2018 NZSS Touch Nationals results combined with a ballot system will be utilised to provide entry for up to 90 schools for the 2019 tournament. More details of the new structure are included below. With  86 teams entering the 2018 Zonal Qualifying Tournaments, this proposal has the ability to cater for all those schools across multiple grades if they so wished.

Feedback sought by School Sport NZ from schools over the past week has been a mix of support for the new structure and concerns with the proposed changes.  All feedback was considered as part of the decision making process.   Touch NZ feel that some changes are required to rejuvenate the NZSS Touch Nationals and School Sport NZ have agreed to work with Touch NZ to implement the new approach.


Over a number of years there have been reduced entries for NZSS Touch Nationals qualifying tournaments and the number of schools committing to attending the NZSS Touch Nationals.  

  • Some schools have no intention of going to NZSS Touch Nationals and only wish to attend qualifying, but are eliminating other schools that do wish to attend the NZSS Touch Nationals
  • Schools are dropping out of NZSS Touch Nationals at late notice, particularly in the girls grades, which reduces the opportunity to replace teams and the tournament itself having become quite “flat” in feel due to smaller team numbers and less new schools coming to the tournament
  • Loss of competition within grades through reduced numbers
  • Schools not coming to Zonal tournaments as they don’t believe they have any chance of qualifying against the regular qualifiers, some of whom then decline their entry as above.
  • A number of other events, including Polyfest in Auckland, are impacting on school’s ability to attend Zonal qualifying tournaments.
  • It is acknowledged that the South Island Secondary Schools tournament still has a significant following.  Touch NZ will run the SISS Touch (non-qualifying) in 2019, should SI schools indicate through School SportNZ in the next week that they will support the event.  School SportNZ will work with schools and Touch NZ to assess the viability of other regional events, such as a NISS Touch Championship (non-qualifying) in 2020. An announcement on this can be expected at the end of February.  It is acknowledged that this will be different in each part of NZ with no “one size fits all” being possible



  • The qualifying tournaments will no longer be run. 
  • Schools will qualify based upon a top 20 placing at the NZSS Touch Nationals the previous year and a ballot opened to fill remaining places available 
  • It is intended to provide entry for 90 teams under the new structure. 
  • For the 2019 NZ Secondary Schools Nationals automatic entry will be offered to the schools that provided the 20 mixed teams, the 19 boys teams and the 15 girls teams that attended the 2018 NZSS Nationals.  A co-ed school will only get automatic entry in the grades in which they attended the 2018 NZSS Nationals. 
  • If all schools accept their automatic entry that will be 54 teams for initial grading and establishment of pools across the schools that are likely to be strong contenders at the 2019 tournament.  A date to accept automatic entry would be implemented after which schools give up their spot. 
  • That leaves 36 team spaces to fill (or more if any automatic qualifiers do not accept their spot).  A “ballot” system would be utilised to determine the teams beyond the automatic qualifiers. 
  • In an ideal world we would have 30 mixed teams, 30 boys teams and 30 girls teams making up our 90 teams. 
  • All the entries received over and above the automatic qualifiers are then drawn out in a ballot until each grade is filled to 30 teams.  If for any reason a grade has insufficient entries to reach 30 teams then those extra spots are allocated to the mixed grade ballot.  The reason we would allocate them to the mixed grade is because the smaller secondary schools are more likely to enter mixed teams and we want to encourage the smaller schools to enter the ballot and engage with Touch NZ and the sport. 
  • A date will be set for entries to be received from schools that are not automatic qualifiers
  • The entry fee for the 2019 NZSS Touch Nationals will be unchanged from 2018.  After the 2019 NZSS Nationals the top 20 placed teams in each grade will receive automatic entry for the following year and then more teams will be drawn in the next ballot to make up the numbers in each grade.  The incentive is to finish in the top 20 to gain continued automatic qualifying.  A school that withdraws from the tournament does not achieve automatic entry the following year and goes back in the ballot, therefore the incentive to turn up is very strong if one wishes to avoid the ballot in future years.  The concept will be evolved over a number of years. Both automatic qualifiers and those schools wishing to go in the ballot will be required to submit their entries through an on-line registration process overseen by Touch NZ, within the date timeframes set.  Touch NZ will finalise the entries by the earliest date possible thereafter.  This will allow adequate planning and preparation time for both the schools and Touch NZ. The grade construct will be modelled on the system already in use at the current NZSS Nationals.  The Touch NZ tournament manager will complete an initial pre-tournament grading based upon previous participation at NZSS Nationals and any other information available that will allow appropriate pools to be established.  After the initial pool play teams are then divided into new pools based upon their game results.  These new pools will then determine the winners in the Championship, the Plate, the Bowl etc.  Each grade will receive first and second place medals.  The intent being that a school can still win a gold medal in the third or fourth division and go home winners and more referees will get finals to referee, albeit lower grade finals.  The number of pools and teams in each pool will be worked out by the Touch NZ tournament manager once final entries are confirmed in each grade.  Under this system the “best will still play the best” in the championship round while allowing the teams that do not make the championship round the opportunity to play for medals in the other grades and finish as high as possible in order to achieve automatic entry the following year.


Referees: The sourcing of referees will lie with Touch NZ.  We will need between 110 - 120 referees to resource a tournament of 90 teams and we have the internal referee resources to achieve that.  We expect referees will be even keener to come to NZSS Nationals if they have a greater chance of refereeing finals as well as no longer having to resource the secondary schools qualifiers on top of their other Module, Provincial, and international responsibilities.

Cost: There is no intent to raise the entry fee and the tournament will stay at 3 days with 90 teams. Extra funds generated through extra teams will be used in covering the costs of extra infrastructure and referees required to resource the larger tournament.

Venue: The 2019 NZSS Touch Nationals will be held in Rotorua.  The park has the infrastructure to accommodate a tournament of 90 teams.  Further communications will be generated asap to get the entry nomination process underway.

TouchNZ fully appreciate that there may be issues and unintended consequences at a local level, however we are confident that we are acting in the best interests of the NZSS Touch Nationals tournament and the sport across New Zealand.

Article added: Tuesday 19 February 2019


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