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Tasman Favorites as Provincial Rugby Begins in New Zealand
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Tasman Favorites as Provincial Rugby Begins in New Zealand

by Bren GrayAugust 3, 2022

New Zealand rugby needs something to talk about other than the All Blacks’ recent form, and that something is finally here, in the form of the Bunnings NPC.

With a new format, and a handful of returning or dropped players fronting up for their provinces, this year’s NPC is shaping up to be a hotly contested one.

We take a look below at who’s leading the odds heading into the season, and which teams might be worth a bet at this early stage.

New Year, New Format

Over the past decade, the NPC has gone through a range of different iterations regarding its format.

This season is no different, with New Zealand Rugby doing away with the Premiership and Championship structure, and instead introducing two different pools, with all 14 teams competing for the same singular trophy.

Teams are arranged into pools simply based on ‘odds’ and ‘evens’, according to their placement in last year’s ladder. These teams then play each other once, as well as four crossover games, making a total round robin of ten games. The top four in each pool then qualify for the quarterfinals.

Quarters are then played within pools, while semis are crossover between pools.

Bottom line is, this year every team has a chance to get their hands on NPC’s main trophy.

Tasman and Canterbury Lead the Pack

Interestingly, last season’s champions Waikato are nowhere to be seen in the bookie’s odds.

Leading the charge, are Tasman (+250) and Canterbury (+275)—two teams that Waikato beat in their charge to the title, knocking off Canterbury 17-14 in the semi-finals and Tasman 23-20 in the final. However, Tasman are deserved favorites, having won the title in 2020 and 2019, while nine-time champions Canterbury need little explanation.

Tasman will be without All Blacks Sevu Reece, Finlay Christie, Shannon Frizell, David Havili, Leicester Fainga’anuku and Will Jordan for the majority of the season due to the Rugby Championship. Though these players will be a welcome injection around finals time, plenty of high quality Super Rugby and ex-All Black players pepper the Makos squad, with the likes of Alex Nankivell, Pari Pari Parkinson, Mitchell Hunt, Tyrel Lomax and Ethan Blackadder leading the charge.

Canterbury will also be missing a plethora of stars on national duty, with Richie Mo’unga, Sam Whitelock and Codie Taylor out until October. However, a power-packed team exists outside of these stars, with former All Blacks George Bridge, Joe Moody, Braydon Ennor and Mitchell Drummond all on display.

It’s no surprise these two teams are neck-and-neck to take out the title this year, given their squad depth.

Auckland and Wellington Challenging Again

Two of New Zealand’s classically dominant provinces round out third and fourth place in the odds for this year’s Bunnings NPC.
While Auckland nabbed the title in 2018, while Wellington has only managed to make the final twice in the last decade, coming up short both times.

However, Auckland are coming into this year’s NPC riding a wave of Super Rugby form, where the Blues were a force to be reckoned with, winning 15 games in a row and only falling at the last hurdle. Many of these players will be fronting up for Auckland now, full of confidence and unity. Watch out for the likes of Bryce Heem and Zarn Sullivan, who will be full of class at this level.

Wellington, on the other hand, benefit from the non-selection of several world-class players. TJ Perenara will play a full NPC season for the first time in decades, while former All Black Julian Savea also is expected to run rampant. Add Asafo Aumua, Du’Plessis Kirifi and Nehe Milner-Skudder to the mix, and Wellington are a force to be reckoned with.

Paying odds of +400 and +500, Auckland and Wellington are both worth a bet heading into the Bunnings NPC 2022.

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About The Author
Bren Gray