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Race to the 2012 ITM Cup playoffs heats up

allblacks.com     11 Oct 2012    

The race to the 2012 ITM Cup playoffs kicks off with almost all teams in the Premiership and Championship having something to play for.

New Zealand Rugby Union General Manager Neil Sorensen said Round 15 will finally decide who gets closer to a shot at the title honours and who locks away the Ranfurly Shield until next year.

"It's going to be an exciting round of footy this weekend. While Canterbury, Wellington, Auckland and Taranaki have cleared the rest of the Premiership field and are guaranteed semifinal spots, all teams will be wanting to grab precious home advantage for next week's semifinals.

"This is the time for provincial rugby fans to don their colours and get behind their teams to help them push for those playoff spots.

"Fifth-placed Waikato host the Hawke's Bay Magpies on Saturday in the last Ranfurly Shield match of the season and we know how teams can dig a little deeper for these matches especially when the winners will hold the 'log o' wood' for the summer.

"The Magpies will want the win to keep their place in next year's Premiership, but they'll also need the Bay of Plenty Steamers to lose against last year's champions Canterbury in the round closer in Christchurch on Sunday," Sorensen said.

"It's pretty clear that nothing is a certainty and with promotion and relegation at stake, we expect there will be some great contests."

Meanwhile on the Championship side of the points table, Championship leaders Counties Manukau are assured a semifinal but need a win against Northland in Whangarei to book a semi at home.

Otago and Tasman are next on the Championship table, are also safe in the semis but both need a win (Otago v Auckland tonight, Tasman v North Harbour on Saturday) to play their semifinals in front of a home crowd.

Teetering in fourth place are Northland who need a win against the Steelers to have a shot at the playoffs, but if they don't secure a bonus point win it opens the door for Southland and Manawatu - both teams would need Northland to lose, or win without a bonus to give them a shot at semifinals.

Meanwhile, winless North Harbour have one more shot to restore pride if they can bank a solitary win against Tasman on Saturday.

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The best and worst scenarios for ITM Cup teams in the race to the semifinals:

Auckland
Playing: Otago
Current position: Third (Premiership)
Safe in the semis, regardless of results - could get a home semi with a win and if Wellington or Canterbury trip up.
Best case: First
Worst case: Fourth

Bay of Plenty
Playing: Canterbury
Current position: Sixth (Premiership)
They can't make the semis and a loss could see them relegated to the Championship if Hawke's Bay lifts the log o'wood or earns two points at least (Hawke's Bay beat Bay of Plenty in round robin)
Best case: Sixth
Worst case: Seventh

Canterbury
Playing: Bay of Plenty
Current position: First (Premiership)
Safe in the semis, regardless of results - should get a home semi with a win but will need a bonus point if Taranaki also wins and gets a bonus point (since Canterbury lost to Taranaki in round robin)
Best case: First
Worst case: Third

Counties Manukau
Playing: Northland
Current position: First (Championship)
Safe in the semis, regardless of results and will get a home semi with a win - they could be playing away though if they lose and if Otago and Tasman both get wins with bonus points (Counties lost to Tasman in round robin)
Best case: First
Worst case: Third

Hawke's Bay
Playing: Waikato
Current position: Seventh (Premiership)
Likely to be relegated if they lose, unless they draw or get two bonus points and Bay of Plenty lose with no bonus points - Hawke's Bay beat Bay of Plenty in round robin. A win will keep them in the Premiership if Bay of Plenty lose - and mean they keep the Shield for the summer.
Best case: Sixth
Worst case: Seventh

Manawatu
Playing: Southland
Current position: Fifth (Championship)
If Northland loses, then this match will decide the fourth semifinal spot. If Northland wins, but doesn't get a bonus then the winner could still make the semis with a bonus point victory.
Best case: Fourth
Worst case: Sixth

North Harbour
Playing: Tasman
Current position: Seventh (Championship)
They can't make the semis, but a win will be a great note on which to end the season.
Best case: Seventh
Worst case: Seventh

Northland
Playing: Counties Manukau
Current position: Fourth (Championship)
If they beat Counties they'll be safe in the semis, but if they don't then it's likely that they'll be out. The Southland v Manawatu result could definitely have a bearing on their position.
Best case: Fourth
Worst case: Sixth

Otago
Playing: Auckland
Current position: Second (Championship)
Safe in the semis, regardless of the result but they need a win to secure a home semi.
Best case: First
Worst case: Third

Southland
Playing: Manawatu
Current position: Sixth (Championship)
If Northland loses, then this match will decide the fourth semifinal spot. If Northland wins, but doesn't get a bonus then the winner could still make the semis with a bonus point victory.
Best case: Fourth
Worst case: Sixth

Taranaki
Playing: Wellington
Current position: Fourth (Premiership)
Safe in the semis, regardless of results but a win could secure a home semi if Auckland and Canterbury lose their matches. If Taranaki ties with Auckland, Auckland will go ahead but if tied with Canterbury Taranaki will go ahead, because of round robin results. Best case: First
Worst case: Fourth

Tasman
Playing: North Harbour
Current position: Third (Premiership)
Safe in the semis, regardless of results but a win and an Otago loss would earn them a home semi. Tasman lost to Otago in round robin, so it won't be enough to equal them on points.
Best case: Second
Worst case: Third

Waikato
Playing: Hawke's Bay
Current position: Fifth (Premiership)
They won't make the semis and aren't in danger of being relegated, but a win will enable them to hold onto the Shield for the summer.
Best case: Fifth
Worst case: Fifth

Wellington
Playing: Taranaki
Current position: Second (Premiership)
Safe in the semis, regardless of results but Auckland and Canterbury's results will affect their chances of hosting a semi. They lost to both the Aucks and the Cantabs in round robin so it won't be enough to equal them on points.
Best case: First
Worst case: Fourth

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The 2012 ITM Cup Premiership and Championship semifinals will be played on Friday 19 October and Saturday 20 October. Please note a change to the ITM Cup Championship semifinal 1 originally scheduled for Friday night will now be played on Saturday and the Premiership semifinal 1 that was previously scheduled for Saturday afternoon has been moved to Friday night.

The ITM Cup Premiership Final will be played on Saturday 27 October at 7:35pm and the Championship will be played on Friday 26 October at 7:35pm.

SEMIFINALS: Friday 19 October - Saturday 20 October
Friday 7.35pm ITM Cup Championship Semifinal 1
Saturday 2.05pm ITM Cup Championship Semifinal 2
Saturday 4.35pm ITM Cup Premiership Semifinal 1
Saturday 7.05pm ITM Cup Premiership Semifinal 2

FINALS: Friday 26 October and Saturday 27 October
Friday 7.35pm ITM Cup Championship Final
Saturday 7.35pm ITM Cup Premiership Final