Turbos to face big four top guns next year

Manawatu's Turbos will find themselves facing all four of this year's Premiership semifinalists next season.

That came out of last week's version of the old wool sale in Wellington when provincial coaches were allowed their selections for the crossover matches between divisions.

Manawatu coach Jason O'Halloran can live with playing the top guns, Canterbury, Auckland, Wellington and Taranaki.

"We do want to win a lot more games next year and get to the playoffs," he said.

"We also want to promote our players."

The finishing order this year pre-ordained that Manawatu would be hosting Auckland at Arena Manawatu for the first time since 2010.

O'Halloran chose to host Taranaki. While Taranaki thumped Manawatu 59-18 in the Ranfurly Shield match at New Plymouth in September, Manawatu did beat them at home last year.

"It will be nice to have a crack at them at home," he said.

It was Wellington's choice to take Manawatu to the capital. Wellington have a Shield challenge against Waikato so Manawatu might stumble across another challenge. "I'm quite happy to go to Wellington," O'Halloran said. "It is an away game but it is only a couple of hours down there and the guys enjoy playing in that stadium."

In Manawatu's last venture there, they won 31-25 last year.

When it came to Canterbury, everyone else had been avoiding them and Manawatu had the second-to-last pick so had no option but to go to Christchurch. Canterbury also have a Shield challenge.

Manawatu's best hope is to face Canterbury early rather than later when they're usually digging in to secure their usual home semifinal spot. They have lost their opening ITM Cup games for the past three seasons.

It all means that Manawatu will again not play Waikato or Bay of Plenty, as was the case this year. The Turbos' last clash with Bay of Plenty was in torrential rain at Mt Maunganui in 2010.

Manawatu also won't be playing the other new Premiership side, Counties-Manukau.

It appears likely the Turbos will have three games in the South Island - against Tasman, Otago and Canterbury, and probably Hawke's Bay at Napier. Manawatu haven't played a competition game at McLean Park since 2009 and have beaten Hawke's Bay in the past two seasons in the round-robin matches.

The draws seldom pan out on a home-and-away basis related to the previous season. But if they did, Manawatu's other home games would be against Northland, North Harbour and Southland.

Manawatu Standard