Time Otago sides won promotion

Trisha Hopcroft reaches out to score for the Otago Spirit against North Harbour earlier this year...
Trisha Hopcroft reaches out to score for the Otago Spirit against North Harbour earlier this year. Photo: Getty Images
The blue and golds - both the men's and women's sides - have plenty of incentive to win this weekend.

In fact, being in the second tier is becoming a depressing position.

The men will have yet another chance to get out of the lower division while the women, for the good of the game in the province, need to get into the top division.

Both sides will play semifinals on Saturday and have been here before - too often really, only to fall at the final hurdle.

Otago is one of just two teams yet to taste the treats at the top table of the domestic competition in the men's competition, the Mitre 10 Cup.

Otago will go into its semifinal against Hawke's Bay in Napier on Saturday treading a very familiar path.

Since the domestic competition split into a two-team format in 2011, Otago has been stuck in the lower Championship section.

In 2011, the season was condensed and a straight final was played.

Following that, there have been semifinals and, but for 2014 when Otago played poorly, the side has made the playoffs. So in the past eight seasons it has made the top four of the Championship seven times.

It has made the final three times but has come up short every time.

It lost to Counties-Manukau in 2012, lost to a last-minute dropped goal to North Harbour in 2016 and then went down to Waikato last year.

Otago hosted the 2016 final, scored a try in the first minute and had chances to win the game but missed a couple of penalties late in the matchgame.

Otago and Northland are the only unions which have not been in the top division since 2011.

Counties-Manukau, in the top division since 2013, will drop to the Championship next year after just one wni this season.

When the women's competition went to a two-division system in 2017, Otago was placed in the bottom division as it had a poor season in 2016.

Since then, it has made two finals but in 2017 lost to Bay of Plenty in the driving rain in Mount Maunganui. Last year, it lost 57-5 to Wellington side in the capital.

The Spirit, which has won every game this season, will face Tasman at Forsyth Barr Stadium starting at 2pm on Saturday.

The Spirit has won some of its games by big scores. It would have been useful for the side to take on a team from the Premiership but the structure of the season meant there was no crossover games between the two divisions.

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