Otago handed tough Mitre 10 Cup draw

Otago has been handed a tough draw for the Mitre 10 Cup this season although it has a Ranfurly Shield challenge.

The draw was released for the Mitre 10 Cup and the Heartland Championship yesterday.

The season is due to kick off on August 6.

Southland will play three of its first four games at home and has managed to avoid some heavyweights.

Otago, which lost in the Championship semifinal to Hawke’s Bay last seasaon, has landed a tougher draw, forced to play against last season’s top four teams in the Premiership.

Otago will open its season with a Saturday afternoon game against Auckland at home and also has to play Wellington, Canterbury and Tasman, although it does play Tasman at home.

Canterbury has the Ranfurly Shield after taking it from Otago last year, but it will have to get past Wellington, Taranaki and Waikato before facing Otago on September 26.

The blue and golds do not play Waikato, North Harbour or the newly promoted Bay of Plenty of the Premiership teams.

The Dunedin club final is set for the final Saturday in July so there will be two weeks after that before Otago plays its first game against Auckland.

Southland, which won one game last season, starts its season with a match against Hawkes Bay on Sunday night in Invercargill on August 9.

The side has managed to avoid some big guns, not playing Auckland, Wellington or Canterbury. After losing to the red and blacks by 80 points last season, Southland will be glad it has avoided Canterbury.

Southland will host the southern derby on October 3 at 2.05pm and will take on Tasman in the outpost of Motueka as the Tasman union takes the game to the regions.

Taranaki play have all its home matches at Inglewood during the day as the ground does not have adequate lights for broadcasting.

The main ground in New Plymouth is being repaired because of earthquake risk.

Usually when an All Black test is played on Saturday night in New Zealand, two games are played on Friday night. This will still occur but the games will both be played at 7.05pm, not at different times as in previous years.

North Otago will open with a derby game against South Canterbury and has other home games against King Country, East Coast and Poverty Bay.

The defending Heartland Champion, North Otago will not play Thames Valley, Wairarapa-Bush or West Coast in the regular season.


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