Victory over Otago in Invercargill today will push Auckland into a strong position to make the domestic 50-over playoffs at the start of next month.

Competition in the Ford Trophy is tight. Auckland sit third, six points behind leaders Northern Districts, one adrift of Canterbury.

A win over Otago could burn off the southerners from contention. From there, Auckland play Otago at Eden Park this weekend then away to Wellington, also struggling near the foot of the ladder, to finish the abbreviated round robin format.

Auckland have taken the same 12 south as the team that prepared for the abandoned match against Canterbury last Saturday.


"We obviously need the points but I also think it's really important if you do make the playoff games to be on a good run of form as it gives you that extra confidence heading in," said Auckland coach Matt Horne.

In other sixth round games, Northern Districts - without test wicketkeeper BJ Watling for the rest of the competition due to a strained hamstring - host Wellington at Seddon Park, while Central Districts face Canterbury in New Plymouth.

Points after five rounds: ND 18, Canterbury 13, Auckland 12, CD 10, Wellington 8, Otago 6.

•New Zealand Cricket has appointed its former fitness trainer Bryan Stronach as its high performance general manager. The position has been vacant since Australian John Buchanan departed in July.

Stronach became NZC's coordinator of the national strength and conditioning programme in mid-2011 and was replaced as New Zealand team trainer by Chris Donaldson.

Southern showdown
Teams for Auckland's game against Otago in Invercargill today:

Auckland: Gareth Hopkins (c), Tim McIntosh, Anaru Kitchen, Craig Cachopa, Colin de Grandhomme, Robbie O'Donnell, Jono Sole, Donovan Grobbelaar, Matt Quinn, Michael Bates, Tipene Friday, Bhupinder Singh.

Otago: Derek de Boorder (c), Aaron Redmond, Hamish Rutherford, Michael Bracewell, Jesse Ryder, Ryan ten Doeschate, Sam Wells, Mark Craig, Nick Beard, Ian Butler, Neil Wagner, Bradley Scott.