The ITM Cup 2013 Premiership and Championship finals are on this weekend with with Wellington hosting Canterbury, while Tasman hosts Hawke’s Bay in the ITM Cup Championship final.

itm cupBoth of these games are destined to be closer than the ITM Cup semi-finals where three of the four matches last week were won by 21 points or more.

Wellington has their best chance to win their first title since 2000 and this will require a repeat of their round robin victory.  Wellington don’t get the luxury of cavalry in the form of current All Blacks squad members returning for the final.

Canterbury has won five titles on the trot and is allowed to play five of their All Blacks squad members.

Wellington has a habit of choking in finals and although the home team Wellington Lions are the favourites at the bookies, many locals don’t hold much hope for their team, even though the Wellington side has been impressive with plenty of fringe All Blacks, although Jeremy Thrush won’t be playing.  Canterbury on the other hand is allowed to use five of their All Blacks squad members which means they can include the likes of Tom Taylor, Luke Whitelock and Dominic Bird.

It will be interesting to see if the ITM Cup Premiership final in Wellington draws much of a crowd.  We all remember back to the 1990’s when NPC finals were sold out, but in all reality the ITM Cup is now a feeder competition featuring heaps of semi-professional and amateur players.  It is also a holiday weekend and lots of people will be leaving town for the weekend.  It is possible that Tasman gets a bigger crowd for the ITM Cup Championship final despite having a smaller population.

The ITM Cup Premiership final will be close and I have this underlying feeling that Canterbury know how to win the big games when it counts.  They have won the last five titles and I am picking them to win a sixth in a row.

My pick Canterbury by 6 points.

ITM Cup Championship final 2013

I would be disappointed if Tasman didn’t beat Hawke’s Bay.  The Makos have been the form team of the ITM Cup Championship and haven’t simply scrapped through to reach the final, they have thrashed some good teams.  Both Tasman and Hawke’s Bay would be at home in the ITM Cup Premiership in 2014, but only one can get promoted.

Hawke’s Bay beat Otago in Dunedin in the semi-finals last week and so won’t be a pushover.  They have some too many good players to be in the ITM Cup Championship really and will definitely have a starting chance against Tasman.

The two first five eighths Marty Banks of Tasman and Ihaia West from Hawke’s Bay have had massive seasons and with a good night at the office on Friday night, could topple Otago’s Hayden Parker as the top points scorer in the ITM Cup.  Their match up will be worth the price of admission alone.

Tasman in many ways remind me of Counties from the ITM Cup 2012 with such a convincing season and given how Counties made the ITM Cup Premiership semi-finals and won the Ranfurly Shield this season.

The Makos also have some newly signed Super Rugby players for the 2014 season as a result of their impressive form this season.

My pick for the ITM Cup Championship final 2013 – Tasman by 7 points.

The winner of the ITM Cup Championship will gain promotion to the ITM Cup Premiership for 2014, replacing the seventh placed team from the ITM Cup Premiership.

Who are you picking to win the ITM Cup Premiership and Championship finals?