Air New Zealand Cup

2009 may well be the year of the Air New Zealand Cup.

In 2007, the World Cup made us even forget than for the first time a SA side won the Super 14.
In 2008, the heat was so intense in the ELVs and the re-built wallabies, boks and all blacks that the 3N was everything one could think of.

2009, on the contrary, has been so pleasant for SA, that everybody is turning their attention to the domestic competitions.

In New Zealand, particularly, that and the fact that at the end of the competition 4 unions will be dismissed from the "first division" of provincial rugby have drawn the hearts of the rugby fans, all wishing to know, all wishing to see.

I daresay that the Canterbury-Wellington game where the Ranfurly Shield was in dispute has had as many fans (in NZ) as the test in Sydney the week before. Besides, young guns like Aaron Cruden (Manawatu), Israel Dagg (Hawke's Bay) and the amazing league convert Michael Witt (Otago) keep us dreaming of future days of glory for the men who were the black.

At the moment, Canterbury, an amazing Bay Of Plenty and Southland are in the top of the competition. Big names Wellington, Otago and Auckland fare in the middle of the table whereas Waikato are slightly behind. None of the big 5 shall worry about being cut. They are out of the equation.

That is pretty unfair, even more unfair if one thinks that, from 2011 on, the promotion/relegation system will be based only in the table points.

But except for Counties Manukau, who are struggling with a number of injuries, and perhaps North Harbour (yes, North Harbour, no less) the rest is in a fierce competition to avoid the cut. Taranaki, Manawatu, Hawke's Bay... they seem all doom to stay. Even mor safe is the future for Southland and Bay of Plenty.

And the future could be gloomingly dark for Northland and, so sad but so true, Tasman. Tasman could be the biggest victim of the whole system. Last year their performance was outstanding. This year, they are again in the hunt... But their sin is being a small union... And that's equivalent to being spanish in a race against an ethiopian athlete; if she falls, you will be disqualified.Tasman is in danger of being disqualified.

By the way, if you are wondering what about the winner, I'll tell you it's less important, but if you want to know, Canterbury shall win again this year.

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