The four so-called crossover matches that the Bay of Plenty Steamers will play in next year's Mitre 10 Cup have been decided, and make for a daunting challenge.

These are the four games that the tier-two Championship side will play against top-tier Premiership teams.

The Steamers will play Wellington, Waikato, North Harbour and the Premiership champions Auckland.

Teams had some say in the picks with the Premiership unions, seeded from seven to one, making their choices for the first and third rounds of picks, while the Championship teams chose their opponents for the second and fourth games.


The Steamers will host Wellington and Waikato but play North Harbour and Auckland away.

This year's Steamers' assistant coach Rodney Gibbs admits that with the team's final position on the table – fifth in the Championship - they didn't get a lot of choice.

"We've got what we got. At the end of the day you have to play four of those premiership teams. I suppose the one good thing is that we managed to avoid two of the top four this year and don't have to play Canterbury or Tasman."

He's keen on the prospect of another Chiefs derby with Waikato.

"That's always a good clash, and it's great that it will be a home game again," he says, although Waikato, who won the 2018 Championship, put more than 50 points on the Steamers in Rotorua in September.

Decisions on which of the home games will be played in Tauranga or Rotorua are not completely in the hands of the Bay of Plenty Rugby Union.

"Things are dictated by Sky TV because they work out their schedule of matches and obviously we can only play daytime matches in Tauranga.

"We'd like to play more afternoon matches but if it doesn't fit in with Sky, it doesn't fit in," says Gibbs.


In 2018, the Steamers played three night matches in Rotorua and two afternoon games in Tauranga. The Tauranga games proved more popular with the public.

This year the Steamers were well beaten by both Waikato and North Harbour and finished fifth in the Championship, missing out on a place in the playoffs.

They last played Wellington in the 2017 Championship final, losing in an overtime thriller.

The Steamers haven't played Auckland since 2017 either, when Auckland won 38-19 at Eden Park.

New Zealand Rugby will begin work on the rest of the draw for the 2019 Mitre 10 Cup season.

This year the competition, in which each team plays 10 matches in nine weeks, started in mid-August. Because 2019 is a Rugby World Cup year and there is no mid-season break for Super Rugby, the Mitre 10 Cup may start slightly earlier.

Gibbs is standing down from being the Steamers assistant coach and is likely to take up a role in the development of women's rugby.

The other assistant this year, David Hill, has also moved on to work with New Zealand Rugby as a kicking and skills consultant with the All Blacks, and assistant coach of the New Zealand Under-20s.

With head coach Clayton McMillan in South America with the Maori All Blacks for the next 10 days, no appointments of new assistant coaches for the Steamers are likely until the New Year.