The Heartland Championship is made up of twelve teams largely based in towns and rural areas of the country.
The teams ranked 1-4 at the end of the round robin play for the Meads Cup, while the teams ranked 5-6 play for the Lochore Cup - both cups being named after two greats of New Zealand Rugby: Sir Colin Meads and Sir Brian Lochore.
Alongside the Meads Cup and the Lochore Cup, Heartland Championship teams have the opportunity to challenge the current Ranfurly Shield holders (currently within the Mitre 10 Cup). If the Ranfurly Shield is won by a Heartland Championship side, the holders must accept challenges from visiting teams at each home game that takes place while they are shield holders - like the JJ Stewart Trophy in the Farah Palmer Cup competition. This challenge system see's the Shield move around the country and is one of the most coveted titles in New Zealand rugby.
Every season there are also challenges from Mitre 10 Cup teams, which can result in the Shield jumping across competitions. Whoever finishes the regular season with the Shield, keeps it over the summer.
For more information about the Mitre 10 Heartland Championship, including draws and recent news, check out heartlandchampionship.co.nz