2018 Mitre 10 Cup and Heartland Championship draw announced
allblacks.com 16 Mar 2018 Getty Images
The Mitre 10 Cup kicks off on 16 August with North Harbour hosting neighbours Northland, while a repeat of the 2017 Premiership Final between Canterbury and Tasman is the following night.
The 12 Heartland Unions kick into action a week later with teams vying for the Meads and Lochore Cups.
New Zealand Rugby Head of Provincial Union Rugby Steve Lancaster said the announcement of these draws signals the official build-up to another exciting season of provincial rivalry.
“We see it every year, these competitions highlight incredible talent and produce great rugby. Last year, Asafo Aumua went from playing for the Wellington Lions, to making his All Blacks debut only weeks later. Examples like that demonstrate the quality of the Mitre 10 Cup competition.
“The Mitre 10 Heartland Championship is a competition that always gets great community support and the teams deliver with passionate, hard-fought matches.
“Canterbury and Wanganui have set the standards in both competitions in recent years but as we saw last year, there are plenty of teams capable of getting that silverware,” said Lancaster.
The Ranfurly Shield was booked away for the summer by Taranaki after their dramatic win over Canterbury. This season they will face stiff challenges from Manawatu, Waikato, Auckland, North Harbour and Wellington.
Mitre 10 Cup
Mitre 10 Cup kicks off on Thursday 16 August with North Harbour taking on Northland at QBE Stadium in Week 1. Enticing first up matches also see defending champions Canterbury take on Tasman, Auckland play neighbours Counties Manukau, premiership new-comers Wellington host Otago.
The competition plays across nine weeks with every team playing one Wednesday night fixture in a double-up round where they play twice that week.
The semifinals will be played on 19-20 October, with the Mitre 10 Cup Championship Final to be played on Friday 26 October and the Mitre 10 Cup Premiership Final on Saturday 27 October.
The Mitre 10 Heartland Championship plays an eight-week modified round robin to determine which four of the 12 teams compete for the Meads Cup and which four compete for the Lochore Cup.
Semifinals for both Cups will be played on 20 October, with the Finals to be played the following weekend.
Fans will be excited for Round One match ups which see defending Meads Cup champions, Wanganui, host South Canterbury who finished top of the table in round robin last season. The teams met in last year’s semifinal with Wanganui winning 29-24.
Another hotly contested Week One match will see 2017 Meads Cup finalists Horowhenua Kapiti hosting Lochore Cup champions, Mid Canterbury.
*The Farah Palmer Cup draw is expected to be announced in April, following the closure of team entries.