itm cupITM Cup Round 9 is here and who would have thought that the most important game would be between Counties and my beloved Southland Stags?  Who would have thought that the battle between two fourth placed teams in the Premiership and Championship respectively would be so important?

Six of the eight semi-final spots have been confirmed with Wellington, Auckland, Canterbury and Counties set for semi-finals footy next weekend in the Premiership.  In the Championship, Tasman and Hawke’s Bay  are all ready for ITM Cup semi -final rugby barring a major catastrophe and assuming Otago beats Northland tonight, there will be a battle between Southland and Manawatu for the final semi-final spot in the Championship.

Southland can not only finish the season with the Ranfurly Shield if they beat Counties this weekend, but they can also guarantee themselves a semi-final.  They will have their work cut out for them given Counties strong mid-season form.  Manawatu will let the Stags sweat on their semi-final hopes when they play Tasman in the last game of Round 9.  The Turbos need to beat the impressive Makos or secure a high scoring draw to make the top four.

In other matches, Otago (vs Northland), Wellington, Auckland and Canterbury should secure away wins.  Counties and Tasman should secure relatively easy home wins.  These games may start out close with both the Stags and Turbos having heaps to play for, but I think Counties and Tasman should be too strong in the end.

Northland vs BOP and Waikato vs Taranaki are two tough games to pick with these teams only playing for pride, it is hard to know what will motivate these teams.

If you need to make up some ground in any tipping competition, be encouraged that there is usually at least one upset per round.  If you pick it and get the rest of the results correct then you will get Grand Slam Bonus Points and this will put you back in with a chance of winning your conference.  It isn’t necessary to pick upsets in every game!

Who are you picking in ITM Cup Round 9?

Otago by 14 points.

Wellington by 18 points

Counties by 21 points

Canterbury by 21 points

BOP by 3 points

Waikato by 1 point

Auckland by 10 points

Tasman by 28 points.

I am trying to play catch up and so some of my margins could be considered extreme (too high or too low) but this is an attempt to receive points for being the closest to the result.  It will work for some matches, but it may not work for all matches!