Rugby: 2017 Mitre 10 Cup schedule taking shape

By Campbell Burnes

Richie Mo'unga of Canterbury breaks the tackle of Tim Perry and Shane Christie of Tasman during the Mitre 10 Cup Final. Photo / Photosport
Richie Mo'unga of Canterbury breaks the tackle of Tim Perry and Shane Christie of Tasman during the Mitre 10 Cup Final. Photo / Photosport

Draws can be complex beasts but the good news for the 2017 Mitre 10 Cup is that the Battle of the Bridge between Auckland and North Harbour - not played in 2015-16 - is back on the programme for next season's Premiership.

This follows North Harbour's stirring Championship division victory which saw them win promotion.

Shaping the draw for the 2017 Mitre 10 Cup is under way with the 14 teams making their selections for crossover matches.

With Hawke's Bay and North Harbour officially swapping places, Hawke's Bay will play the 2017 season in the Championship and North Harbour will have their first shot at the Premiership title.

Strangely, the Premiership's Counties Manukau and Championship's Wellington were not able to organise to face each other in a crossover match, meaning the Jonah Lomu Memorial Trophy, won in dramatic late style by the Lions in Pukekohe on September 9, will not be contested in 2017.

Otago did select Auckland in round two of the crossover picks, meaning the Lin Colling Memorial Trophy is again up for grabs. Auckland captured Bay of Plenty in round three, meaning the John Drake Memorial Boot will be up for grabs at Eden Park in 2017.

New Zealand Rugby head of provincial union rugby and former Crusaders, Canterbury and NZ Colts lock Steve Lancaster said with reviews of the 2016 season well underway, planning for next year's season had already begun.

"We're in the process of gathering feedback from provincial unions about this year's competition and what we can do to improve for next year.

"The quality of rugby we saw this year was just outstanding. It proves again, that any team can play out of their skins on the day and make the result count for them.

"North Harbour is a great example of how teams can design their own destiny. They finished the regular season third on the Championship table, and after toppling first Wellington, then Otago, have pushed their way into the Premiership.

"Northland were able to record their prized win of the season in a remarkable week seven win at home over Waikato. It's a crossover match I'm sure will remain ingrained in the memory of many Taniwha fans as one of their greater upsets.

"The crossover matches are an important part of the Mitre 10 Cup format, pitting Championship against Premiership, and the points still count," Lancaster said.

Having said that, there were six crossover victories for Championship teams in 2016, down on the 9-10 average of the last two or three seasons.

Representatives from all 14 teams met this week for the annual crossover match picks.

The four rounds of picks took place as follows (home team listed first, and teams making selection in bold):

Round 1

The first round of picks are selected by Premiership teams (in bold) in reverse order of seeding. These games, as confirmed below, will be played as home games for the

Championship teams:
• Northland v North Harbour
• Southland v Auckland
• Bay of Plenty v Waikato
• Manawatu v Counties Manukau
• Hawke's Bay v Taranaki
• Otago v Tasman
• Wellington v Canterbury

Round 2

The second round of picks are selected by Championship teams in reverse order of seeding. These games will be played as home games for the Championship teams;

Northland v Waikato
Southland v North Harbour
Manawatu v Tasman
Bay of Plenty v Counties Manukau
Wellington v Taranaki
Otago v Auckland
Hawke's Bay v Canterbury

Round 3

The third round of picks are selected by Premiership teams in order of seeding. These games will be played as home games for the Premiership teams;

Canterbury v Otago
Tasman v Southland
Taranaki v Manawatu
Counties Manukau v Northland
Waikato v Wellington
Auckland v Bay of Plenty
North Harbour v Hawke's Bay

Round 4

The fourth round of picks are selected by Championship Teams in order of seeding. These games will be played as home games for the Premiership Teams;

• Counties Manukau v Hawke's Bay
• North Harbour v Otago
• Tasman v Wellington
• Taranaki v Bay of Plenty
• Waikato v Manawatu
• Canterbury v Southland
• Auckland v Northland

New Zealand Rugby will now capture these selections as part of the draw construction for 2017. The draw will be released in early 2017.

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