Chief executives of provincial rugby unions picked the
teams their unions will play in their ITM Cup crossover
matches next season via teleconference this afternoon. Most
of the coaches from the competition went along to the New
Zealand Rugby Union offices in Wellington to watch the action
unfold and APNZ's Daniel Richardson went along to see what it
was all about.
There's a certain science that goes in to picking your
opponents for crossover matches in the ITM Cup.
Every team gets four matches per season under the current ITM
Cup format - two at home and two away from home.
The second-tier Championship sides get to pick a team to host
from the Premiership in the first round of selections, before
the Premiership teams select a Championship team to host and
the third round sees a Championship side make a call on what
Premiership side they want to travel to for a game.
The fourth crossover game is automatically selected based on
seedings from the previous season's results and the
Premiership sides are given an away game against a
The Championship winners will meet the last-placed team in
the competition overall, the runner-up plays second to last
and so on until the seventh-ranked side is drawn to meet the
So where does the science come in?
Well, if you're a Championship team who gets an early pick of
who you will host, there's two main factors you want to toss
up - history between the unions and quality of the opponent.
Take Manawatu, for example. They picked second for their home
game at New Zealand Rugby Union headquarters today and coach
Jason O'Halloran said they had two teams in mind:
Counties-Manukau and Taranaki.
Counties were picked by Harbour - who had the first selection
- so Manawatu Rugby Union chief executive John Knowles
proudly announced down the phone line that his team would
host Taranaki next year.
"We gave a bit of direction to Knowlesy," O'Halloran said.
"We realised we'd have second pick in the first round so we
gave him two options, basically. Funnily enough, one of those
was Counties, which got gobbled up by Harbour. So the next
option was Taranaki, thinking we will get a pretty good gate;
Therein lies the thinking. Pulling a decent crowd in an ITM
Cup game is vital for unions throughout the country and local
derbies are a great way to drum up fan support.
Local derbies were a popular choice for chief executives
Hawke's Bay had the first choice for their away trip to a
Premiership side and they selected Bay of Plenty so the sides
can reignite the 'Battle of the Bay', while Canterbury chose
to host Otago in a traditional southern shoot out.
There were a collection of other obvious choices as Northland
chose to travel down the road to meet big brothers Auckland,
while Auckland invited Harbour over for a match that will see
the 'Battle of the Bridge' hostilities resume.
It's a short and sharp process and almost seems over before
Dr Mark Johnston from the school of mathematics, statistics
and operations research at Victoria University in Wellington
is the man behind the system that dictates who can pick who
without ruining the tapestry of the draw and it runs with a
This year marked the first time the crossover selection
process was made open to the media and it was certainly
interesting to watch.
The obvious next step is to see a player draft of some form
in the future.