The coverage of southern hemisphere rugby is brought to you by Scott Donaldson. His blog is one of the most read for rugby news and insight in New Zealand. Access to his rugby views helps Talking Rugby Union stay up to date with all the rugby union activity in this most important region for the game. Following on from our previous coverage, let’s look at the ITM Cup.
The ITM Cup Round 8 is the penultimate round of the competition with the Wellington vs Auckland match the obvious highlight. With only two rounds left for both teams and tipsters to make a dash for the title, it could be time to chance your arm!
The home teams have won the majority of matches in the ITM Cup 2013 with 34/54 matches won by the home team so far and in the last three rounds the home teams have an 19/24 winning record. This means that even if the home team is the underdog, don't be surprised to see them win.
There has also been at least one thrashing each weekend in the ITM Cup 2013.
ITM Cup Round 8
Tasman and Waikato play twice in Round 8 with Waikato drawing the short straw with two away games separated by three days. Waikato has been hit by injuries and will struggle against the in-form Tasman team who are looking to cement a home semi-final spot in the Championship.
The Stags vs Hawkes Bay game is crucial with both teams wanting the other home semi-final in the Championship. Both teams come off great wins in Round 7. Hawke's Bay come off a big win over North Harbour, but this might leave them flat going down to Invercargill to meet the Stags at the Roaring Pen.
The Stags need to improve their starts as they love to finish strongly. I am picking the Stags at home. This match should be close and may divide some SuperBru conferences. Canterbury last round thrashed Manawatu and then went flat against Auckland in their next game.
Manawatu have been tough to beat at home and should be too strong for Northland.
Bay of Plenty has the potential for an upset in their match against Waikato. This is the dance of the desperates with both teams having ITM Cup Premiership campaigns to forget. If you are needing to make up places in your SuperBru tipping conference then go BOP in this one. This is a derby match that neither team can afford to lose if they want to avoid relegation.
North Harbour vs Otago - This match is a banana skin for Otago with North Harbour likely to be fired up after being mauled by the Magpies last week. Otago themselves lost disappointingly against the Stags and have more to play for with a chance at a home semi-final in their grasp.
The smart money is on Otago in this one, but I am going for North Harbour to upset because they will be hurting and playing at home.
Wellington vs Auckland - This match will decide who takes pole position into the semi -finals of the ITM Cup Premiership. Wellington should win at home against Auckland, but expect a great game. Auckland were great against Canterbury last week, but I think the home ground advantage will be enough for Wellington in a close one. It will be interesting to see Cory Jane in action.
Canterbury vs Counties - Canterbury will be hurting after last week's loss to Auckland. This should be an entertaining game to watch since it is a day game between two teams who love to score tries. Have Canterbury lost their mojo? Counties have been impressive at home but may struggle on the road, especially with one eye on their Ranfurly Shield defence in a week.
Taranaki vs Tasman - Taranaki are treading water above the Premiership relegation zone, while Tasman are high flyers of the Championship. This game is another one which will separate the tipsters. Taranaki will be hurting after losing to Manawatu and so will come out fighting against the impressive Makos.
Scotty tells us "I am for all home teams in Round 8 since home teams have dominated in recent weeks."
Who are you picking for ITM Cup Round 8? Are you playing it safe or picking a few upsets?
So exactly who is Scotty going for?
"My picks ITM Cup Round 8
Tasman by 21
Southland by 6
Manawatu by 7
BOP by 3
North Harbour by 3
Wellington by 6
Canterbury by 18
Taranaki by 3"