The most popular sports played in New Zealand originate from the country's British heritage. As a colony of Britain, sports that were popular in Britain were introduced to New Zealand and have remained the top sports by to this day by participation. In order of popularity, the top sports include rugby union, soccer, cricket, netball, and tennis. A number of water sports, particularly rowing and sailing are popular. Snow sports including skiing and snowboarding are gaining in popularity. Both netball and equestrianism sports are popular with women.
Sports where New Zealand dominates or has a powerful presence in the international arena include: rugby, netball, yachting, rowing, and equestrian.
Rugby union is the most popular sport and is an essential part of the nation's identity. It has the largest following of any sport and occupies the position that soccer does in Europe and South America. New Zealand's national team, the All Blacks, have the highest winning record of any other country and by a considerable margin. Before each game, the All Blacks perform the haka which is a traditional Maori challenge. Two other codes, Rugby League and Sevens are also popular. New Zealand also has the highest winning record in International Sevens.
Cricket is the most followed summer sport in New Zealand. International matches are keenly watched, even though the national team is not considered among the best. The first test took place in 1930 and it wasn't till 1956 that New Zealand got its first win. The golden age for New Zealand cricket was the 1970s and 1980s. During that time, New Zealand's most famous cricketer, Richard Hadlee was playing and since then has become an international legend of the game.
Netball is the most popular game for women in participation and has a wide national following. New Zealand is ranked no 2 in the world after Australia in netball.
Football is called soccer in New Zealand. It has the highest rate of participation of any sport in the country, but is not widely followed. However, the English Premier League and World Cup, are widely followed.
New Zealand's biggest city Auckland is dubbed the City of Sails. It in 2000 and 2003 it hosted the prestigious America's Cup, the world's oldest sporting trophy and the pinnacle of competion in the world of yachting. The national team, Team New Zealand first won the Americas Cup from the Americans in San Diego in 1995. And won the trophy again in the next regatta in 2000. In 2003 they lost the cup to the Swiss who had successfully nabbed Russell Coutts, Brad Butterworth, and several other New Zealands who defected to the Swiss team 'Alingi' from Team New Zealand. Since that time, New Zealand has not successfully won back the Americas Cup, even though they are still a powerful force in yachting. However the cup has been won by New Zealanders competing for other nations which still shows New Zealand's dominance in that sport.
New Zealand has had some international success in skiing and snowboarding. Even though there is an abundance of mountains, snow, and ski runs, they are not that close to the main urban centres and so take a concerted effort by New Zealanders who participate in these winter sports.