The ITM Cup 2013 is over for six out of 14 teams involved in the ITM Cup either Premiership or Championship. ITM Cup Round 9 was the final nail in the coffin for nearly half of the teams in the ITM Cup 2013. There were two upsets which shocked most punters with ITM Cup Championship teams Hawke’s Bay and Otago picking up upset wins at home over Premiership teams Wellington and Auckland respectively. These two results reinforced the fact that at least three Championship teams are deserving of being in the ITM Cup Premiership. Tasman, Otago and Hawke’s Bay looked better than some of the lower Premiership teams like Bay of Plenty, Taranaki and Waikato this season. Both of these results were only picked by two and 12 percent of SuperBru tipsters this round making the Hawke’s Bay win over Wellington one of the biggest upsets of the season.
The Ranfurly Shield made it from the disappointing Premiership team Waikato, to Championship teams Otago and Hawke’s Bay, before Counties stamped their mark on Ranfurly Shield history with a decent length tenure. The Ranfurly Shield alone seemed to breathe new life into the ITM Cup by reviving the provinces that got behind it.
ITM Cup 2013 Review
The Premiership semi-finalists have a predictable look to them with the big three Wellington, Canterbury and Auckland dominating the competition. Counties started slowly but warmed to the task to finish fourth with the Ranfurly Shield seeming to galvanise them. That was impressive given that it was their first year in the Premiership. Can they set the cat amongst the pigeons in the semi-finals? It has been interesting seeing them now that their players who performed so well in 2012 have had a season of Super Rugby under their belts.
Otago coach Tony Brown has taken a team full of relative unknown Otago club players into a hardworking team capable of beating some of the big boys. Hayden Parker was impressive, although he will want to forget the Ranfurly Shield challenge against Hawke’s Bay. They now host a semi-final against Hawke’s Bay and this will be a chance for revenge. Hopefully we see more Otago players make the Highlanders squad for 2014.
Hawke’s Bay were impressive this season although you would expect that given their heavy recruitment in the off season. They have the biggest names in the ITM Cup Championship, yet still only finished third which is testament to the quality of Tasman and Otago. Ihaia West has been crucial for Hawke’s Bay this season. His speed and goal kicking are impressive and he deserves a Super Rugby contract somewhere.
Waikato were the biggest disappointment in the ITM Cup 2013. Sure, they finished with a couple of wins to save face, but they only won four games which is a problem for a Super Rugby based franchise. In their defence they don’t have heaps of Super Rugby 2013 winning Chiefs in their team.
Taranaki made the semi-finals in 2012 and this season only just avoided relegation. They really miss not having Beauden Barrett who is now in the All Blacks. They also lost some experienced Super Rugby players which they had recruited the season before. Guys like Andre Taylor never really hit their straps this sesaon.
Bay of Plenty were obviously disappointing, only winning one game. It was a harsh reality for the Steamers who no longer have the core of Super Rugby players they once had.
Southland – The Stags have still made the semi-finals of the championship, but despite an exciting revival which saw them win their four games in a short space of time. They finally have some attacking flair but didn’t really get enough out of Robbie Robinson who had a terrible season after scoring the winning try in the Super Rugby 2013 final.
North Harbour was again disappointing this season. They have quite a large population base and resources to select from, but continue to be disappointing. Francis Saili showed that he is a class act.
It was probably not a surprise that Northland finished sixth in the Championship, but I thought Northland were the real deal after they had such an encouraging start to the season. I really wanted the Rene and Rupeni show to cause some damage, but Rupeni’s season was injury plagued.
The Manawatu Turbos were luke-warm this season. Their defence was terrible, but they were tough to beat at home and their attacking game was refreshing. Given they are without the two Aarons (Smith and Cruden) then finishing fifth in the Championship is about as expected.
How did your team go in the ITM Cup 2013? Who are you picking to win the ITM Cup Premiership and Championship?
I think that plenty will depend on who gets picked for the All Blacks squad and who is too injured to play. Wellington have a habit of choking in finals with Canterbury based sides a regular enemy. I am picking Canterbury to beat Wellington in the final.
I think Tasman will win the final of the Championship 2013 and deservedly get promoted for the 2014 season.