Stags try to make most of draw options

NATHAN BURDON
Last updated 05:00 16/11/2012
Stags STD
ROBYN EDIE
TOUGH DRAW: For a second year in a row the Stags will not be scheduled a Ranfurly Shield challenge at the start of the season.

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Southland's fourth-placed finish in the NPC championship hasn't done it many favours when it comes to selecting cross-over games against premiership teams next season.

For the second year in a row the Stags will not be scheduled a Ranfurly Shield challenge at the start of the season, instead relying on it moving for them to get a crack.

Southland will take on premiership teams Taranaki, Waikato, Bay of Plenty and Counties Manukau.

The selections for the four cross-over pool games in the NPC, which are combined with the six games against fellow championship teams, were made via web conference yesterday.

Discussions are continuing between the provincial unions and the New Zealand Rugby Union on the format for next year's competition.

Rugby Southland general manager Brian Hopley said Southland's preference was for midweek games to be dropped from the schedule.

After criticisms during this year's competition, it looks likely that the draw could run from Thursdays to Sundays.

That would add one to two more weeks to the length of the NPC, possibly having an impact on club rugby.

"We think the competition is good as it is, but the midweek games don't work for us," Hopley said.

"We had a couple of weeks' break [after club rugby] this time around, but that depends on how the club competition is set up too, and we have to look at that closely."

Southland's fourth placing in this year's championship gave it an automatic home game against fourth-placed premiership team Taranaki.

With it's first pick, a decision on which premiership team it chose to play at home, Rugby Southland opted for Ranfurly Shield holders Waikato. The shield would not be up for grabs as it is an away game for Waikato.

In the second round, Bay of Plenty opted for a home game against Southland with Tasman as it's only other option.

In the third round, Hopley picked newly-promoted Counties Manukau for an away game, with beaten finalist Auckland, defending champion Canterbury and Wellington the other options.

The final draw for the NPC will be made public early next year.

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- The Southland Times

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