Otago may well need another win to make playoffs

Otago’s Josh Ioane is tackled by Jackson Hemopo of Manawatu during their Ranfurly Shield clash at...
Otago’s Josh Ioane is tackled by Jackson Hemopo of Manawatu. PHOTO: GETTY IMAGES
Otago has won more than half its games this season but it may well have to win another one to get into the playoffs.

Ever since the provincial competition went to two divisions - with Otago stuck in the bottom Championship division for eight years now - teams have generally had to win only four games to qualify for the Championship playoffs.

In fact in 2016, Bay of Plenty won only three games but still qualified for the playoffs. Gaining 11 bonus points put Bay of Plenty across the line that year, although it lost in the semifinals.

Otago has already won four of its seven games this season and sits third on the points table on 20 points.

But Otago will be looking behind it and both Manawatu and Taranaki are within sight, although these teams are going in different directions.

Manawatu has won its past three games and has now moved to fourth on the table, on 16 points.

Its confidence has been given a real boost after it beat Canterbury in Christchurch last Thursday for a victory which earned it five competition points.

Manawatu has two games at home which it could win - against North Harbour and Counties-Manukau - while its away game is against Bay of Plenty.

Taranaki started the season in the opposite way to Manawatu.

The former Premiership winner won its first three games of the season and looked to be right in contention.

It then lost at home to Tasman and has gone on to lose its next three games, all to teams from the Championship. Taranaki sits on 14 points and is not out of the running for the semifinals but is starting from behind.

The side will host Southland this week and will be looking for nothing less than a convincing win and picking up a four-try bonus point.

But it has a couple of hard games to finish - taking on Waikato in Hamilton and then Auckland at Eden Park.

Otago has two of its last three games at home - against Waikato this Sunday and then Canterbury on October 5.

Its final game of the regular season is against Northland in Whangarei on October 13.

It will need to win at least one to confirm its place in the semifinals. It may still make it with four wins but it is no guarantee.

Otago could still host a semifinal but it will have to catch Bay of Plenty which has been in good form and has lost just to Auckland and Wellington, to sit on 26 points.

Hawke's Bay is well out in front on 33 points.

Playoffs chances

The run home

Otago (20 points): Waikato (h), Canterbury (h), Northland (a). 
Manawatu (16 points): North Harbour (h), Bay of Plenty (a), Counties-Manukau (h).
Taranaki (14 points): Southland (h), Waikato (a), Auckland (h).

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