SANZAR Fall Rugby Preview: ITM Cup, Currie Cup, National Rugby Championship

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ITM Cup
ITM Cup

NEW YORK, NY- We promised in the most recent Weekend Recap that we would have a preview of the Southern Hemisphere – often referred to as SANZAR. And we’re here to deliver with our Southern Hemisphere Fall Rugby Preview. Included are New Zealand’s ITM Cup, South Africa’s Currie Cup, Australia’s National Rugby Championship and Argentina’s Campeonato Argentino de Rugby.

Okay… Now that you’re done staring, let’s break it down quickly…

The Ranfurly Shield
The Ranfurly Shield

Country: New Zealand
ITM Cup
League: ITM Cup (Formerly the National Provincial Championship)
Defending Champions: Canterbury and Manawatu Turbos
Season Length: August 14, 2014 – October 25, 2014
Thoughts: Two conferences with two separate championships. The higher division is the premiership with a 2nd division called the championship. although for some reason inter-conference play is allowed. Within all of this there is a prize some would call even greater than the ITM Cup itself, The Ranfurly Shield. The Shield is based on a challenge so regardless of conference or any other factor a team can request and often be granted a challenge for the shield. This led to stuggling teams last year like the Hawke’s Bay Magpies holding onto it before it was taken by current holders Counties Manakau coached by All Black legend Tana Umaga and based out of Pukekohe.  Taking a stab at the winners, it will see a return to glory for Auckland as they snap Canterbury’s 7-year championship run in the Premiership Conference and Hawke’s Bay as Championship Conference winners. Here is the list of teams:

Team Head coach Captain Overview
2013 Placing 2013 Division
Auckland colours, Air NZ Cup.png Auckland New Zealand Wayne Pivac Hadleigh Parkes 3rd Premiership
Bopcolours.png Bay of Plenty New Zealand Kevin Schuler Willie Ripia 7th Premiership
CanterburyColours.png Canterbury New Zealand Scott Robertson George Whitelock 1st Premiership
CountiesAirNZ.png Counties Manukau New Zealand Tana Umaga Fritz Lee 4th Premiership
Hawkes Bay Air NZ Cup colours.png Hawke’s Bay New Zealand Craig Philpott Mike Coman 2nd Championship
Turbos.png Manawatu New Zealand Jason O’Halloran Nick Crosswell 5th Championship
Harbour.png North Harbour New Zealand Liam Barry James Parsons 7th Championship
NLTaniwha.png Northland New Zealand Derren Witcombe Rene Ranger 6th Championship
Otagorugby.png Otago New Zealand Tony Brown Paul Grant 3rd Championship
Southland.png Southland New Zealand David Henderson Jamie Mackintosh 4th Championship
Naki.png Taranaki New Zealand Colin Cooper Kane Barrett 6th Premiership
Makos.png Tasman New Zealand Kieran Keane Shane Christie 1st Championship
Waikato colours, Air NZ Cup.png Waikato New Zealand John Walters Matt Vant Leven 5th Premiership
Wellington Lions colours.png Wellington New Zealand Chris Boyd Jeremy Thrush 2nd Premiership
The Currie Cup
The Currie Cup

Country: South Africa
League: Currie Cup
Defending Champions: Lions (Natal Sharks)
Season Length:
August 9, 2014 – October 25, 2014
Thoughts: Much like the ITM Cup, Super Rugby has caused this once great domestic comp to be altered. During the years of South Africa’s isolation from international sport, this competition was everything to SA rugby fans and players. Going into its 76th season, it has been revamped once again. Its premier division now consists of 8 teams and the second division has 6 teams. The 8-team premier division will consist of: 5 teams that form the base of the S15 franchises; the #6 team from the 2013 contest; the 2013 first division team that was promoted; and the winner of the playoff between the remaining 7 first division teams for the second playoff spot.

As per Wikipedia, currently, South Africa is divided into 14 unions. Of those unions only four draw players from an entire province: Here are the unions in the premier division and where they draw from:

GriquasNorthern Cape (home matches in Kimberley)
Natal SharksKwaZulu-Natal (home matches in Durban) – S15 franchise
Free State Cheetahs – central and western (home matches in Bloemfontein) – S15 franchise
Western ProvinceCape Town metropolitan area – S15 franchise known as the Stormers
Golden LionsJohannesburg and municipalities to its west (home matches in Johannesburg) – S15 franchise
Blue BullsPretoria, the two Gauteng municipalities to its east, and Limpopo Province (home matches in Pretoria) – S15 franchise
Eastern Province Kings – western (home matches in Port Elizabeth) –  1st division playoff winners
PumasMpumalanga (home matches in Witbank) – 1st division champions

With all that said, we feel that it is a two-horse race between the Sharks and Western Province. It is tough to see anyone upsetting the balance though the Blue Bulls may just be the team to do so.

The ARC Trophy
The ARC Trophy

Country: Australia
League: National Rugby Championship
Defending Champions: N/A
Season Length:
August 30, 2014 – November 1, 2014
Thoughts: For only the second time in its history, Australia will have a nationwide premier rugby tournament. The first time was a few years back and that ended up a huge failure due to budget overruns. This time, new ARU CEO Bill Pulver has it all worked it with a big budget TV deal and loads more sponsors to make it feasible. There will be 9 teams with 6 of them split between rugby union heartland provinces New South Wales and Queensland. The remaining three will be in Perth, Melbourne and the capital city Canberra; all 3 have Super Rugby franchises so that makes sense.  Here is a list of teams:

Team Licencees and associated clubs Head coach Captain
Brisbane City QRU / Reds Australia Nick Stiles Australia Curtis Browning
Greater Sydney Rams West Harbour, Penrith, Parramatta, Southern Districts * Australia Brian Melrose TBA
Melbourne Rising VRU / Rebels Australia Sean Hedger Australia Nic Stirzaker
NSW Country Eagles Easts, Randwick Australia Darren Coleman TBA
North Harbour Rays Manly, Warringah, Gordon, Norths Australia Geoff Townsend TBA
Perth Spirit WA / Force South Africa David Wessels
South Africa Kevin Foote
TBA
Queensland Country QRU / Reds Australia Steve Meehan Australia Anthony Fainga’a
Sydney Stars Sydney University, Balmain Australia Chris Malone Australia Pat McCutcheon
University of Canberra Vikings ACT Rugby / Brumbies, University of Canberra, Tuggeranong Vikings Australia Dan McKellar TBA

With no history to go on, best to go based on rugby history and figure that it will be Sydney versus Brisbane in the final. Flip a coin to decide the winner.

Country: Argentina
League: Campeonato Argentino de Rugby
Defending Champions: Tucumán
Season Length:
November 1 – 29, 2014
Thoughts:
The inter-provincial rugby tournament in Argentina is called the Campeonato. It is also the name of the division that is considered the major tournament and is played between the 1st and 29th of November. The tournament is divided into 3 divisions, the“Campeonato”, “Ascenso”, and “Desarollo.” The Campenonato is played in November and features the top 6 regions in the country. The regions are Tucuman, Cordoba, Buenos Aires, Salta, Alta Valle and Rosario. All the teams, in particular those from the big cities, have a rich history. It will likely be a three-horse race between Tucuman, Buenos Aires and Cordoba. It is anyone’s guess who will win it all.

That’s it for now. Feel free to comment below, look for and “Like” our Facebook Rugby Wrap Up Page and follow us on Twitter@: RugbyWrapUp,Junoir Blaber, DJ Eberle, Nick Hall, James Harrington, Cody Kuxmann, Jaime Loyd, Karen Ritter , Jamie Wall, Jake Frechette and Declan Yeats, respectively.

….And as always, stay low and keep pumping those legs.

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About Junoir Blaber 868 Articles
Born in Osu, Accra, Ghana, West Africa, Junoir Blaber is a rare commodity; while most Ghanians eat, sleep and dream Soccer (football), Junoir is all about Rugby. A self-proclaimed Rugbyologist, he has been involved in Rugby as a ref, coach, administrator and player since Columbus discovered Ohio. His useful/trivial rugby knowledge qualify Blaber as RWU's Senior Correspondent & known in rugby circles as The Rugby Rain Man. He can also be found moonlighting for our American partners at MeetTheMatts.com.