Hawke's Bay Magpies rugby team's head coach Mark Ozich has given this season's Mitre 10 Cup draw the thumbs-up.
"It's a good draw for us. We've got a lot of afternoon fixtures and no Thursday night ones which is good," Ozich said after the draw was released today.
His troops will have home games against Counties-Manukau, Canterbury, Northland, Manawatu and Wellington. The Magpies, who finished second in last year's Championship, won't meet Premiership champions Tasman and other Premiership sides Auckland and Waikato this season.
"With no Storm Weeks like we had a couple of seasons back there are good turn arounds for recovery and time for more trainings," Ozich explained.
Last year the Magpies struggled with a 2.05pm kick off against Bay of Plenty in Tauranga. They conceded 31 unanswered points in the first half before losing 51-24.
This season the Magpies have another 2.05pm kick off against the Steamers in Tauranga but will be better prepared as they will have played a 2.05pm match against Northland at McLean Park the previous week. Ozich said the Magpies will also play pre-season games at 2pm and 1.30pm so there shouldn't be any issues with 2.05pm games during the season.
The Magpies' best chance of a Ranfurly Shield challenge will be if Taranaki takes the shield off Canterbury in round two and Otago takes it off Taranaki in round three as Otago hosts the Magpies in round four.
"Obviously there are a lot of what ifs and maybes about a challenge for us," Ozich added.
Hawke's Bay Rugby Union CEO Jay Campbell was thrilled with the draw.
"It's great for our rugby community to have two local derbies playing both Manawatu and Wellington and I am positive there will be huge interest when the Cantabs head to town on the 23rd of August," Campbell said.
"Our province loves its rugby and especially Magpies rugby, so given the favourable draw and the exciting roster being assembled I've got no doubt McLean Park will be humming come Mitre 10 Cup time," Campbell added.
The Magpies Mitre 10 Cup draw is:
Sunday, August 9 v Southland in Invercargill 4.35pm; Saturday, August 15 v Counties-Manukau at McLean Park 2.05pm; Sunday, August 23 v Canterbury at McLean Park 4.35pm; Sunday, August 30 v Otago in Dunedin 4.35pm; Friday, September 4 v North Harbour in Albany 7.05pm; Saturday, September 12 v Northland at McLean Park 2.05pm; Friday, September 18 v Manawatu at McLean Park 7.05pm; Saturday, September 26 v Bay of Plenty in Tauranga at 2.05pm; Friday, October 2 v Wellington at McLean Park 7.05pm; Sunday, October 11 v Taranaki in Inglewood 2.05pm; October 16 or 17 Semifinal (if qualify); Friday, October 23 Final (if qualify).