South Island - It's hard to get more right, really!
Canterbury - Last year's NPC was the start of this years S12 win. Merhtz not kicking most of the season, and all.
You really can't go past them, even without various ABs.
It is going to be another great year for blooding young talent. Hopefully they can find another couple of stars in the making.
And if they only come second on the table, well as long as it is to someone deserving. Can't think of anyone off-hand...
Otago - Finalists last year, 2nd NZ team in S12 2002. These guys are only gearing up for better things. I won't mention the better thing as I don't want to jinx anyone (them or us).
These guys look as good on paper as anyone else, and the guys who have had the ABs experience are just going to add to the spirit of the team.
Should be another fine year for the Blue and Golds. Could be a great one!
Southland - OK... so they beat the Lions last year. Maybe they can suprise someone this year as well.
They only managed a draw with Counties-Manukau, who are now in the 2nd division!
Have a new look team with Junior Tonu'u, Corey Flynn and a string of Pacific Islanders. So, an honest team with spark?
May suprise me and finish higher than 9th.
North Island - The "Hard men"
Waikato - If you want to compare the NI teams to the SI teams (and I do) then you would say that Waikato are the Otago of the North Island.
They are consistently in the hunt for bigger things, and have certainly had their seasons in the sun.
But they haven't been on fire for a couple of years, Super 12 has had a indifferent effect them, and there is nary a poser to be be found
Ok, I haven't checked my facts on the last point, but I think you will agree that the last couple of seasons would have driven the 'gel out of any Waikato wannabe's hair. Additionally they just aren't that kind of team.
On paper they should have an awesome team, but that's on paper. Last NPC they were a close 5th to Auckland, but the Chiefs managed only 4 wins this year for a final place of 8th.
What can Fozzy draw out a Waikato squad that Kevin Green couldn't?
Taranaki - Some of these lads have given back-bone to the Hurricanes pack. Now they just need some legs to go with the spine!
They could be the dark horse. Of course they could also end up at the knackers yard.
Should keep the top teams going for 60 minutes. Maybe a high profile scalp, say the Lions.
But otherwise should be happy with a top half of table finish.
Northland - These guys are the good, solid, middle of table achievers.
Every now and then they give the big boys a wakeup call - and the Legend rides again.
Go for another win over Auckland guys, it's always good kai for the fans.
Bay of Plenty - Their three wins last year were against Wellington, Counties Manukau, and Hawkes Bay. Opps !
Guess they will just have to beat Wellington again this year eh?
You would expect them to play competently and consistently, but not necessarily win any games.
My advice to BOP players: bank on the retainer and not the win bonus!
North Island - The "Players"
Auckland - Due a another good year, certainly their supporter(s) deserve it. 4th on the table NPC semi-finalist last year, and 3rd NZ team in S12 2002 (a quite average 6th).
Last year they lost to North Harbour and Northland! (Of course were also thrashed twice by Canterbury.) They only beat Otago by 1, and Bay of Plenty by 4!
Think "the Lions with less promise and more front-up". If they can keep the hair-gel out of their eyes, and their minds off the aftermatch, they should manage a top 4 finish
North Harbour - Who?
Arh, haha, ha! Just a little joke there.
Of course I remember the great North Harbour. They were the only ones to beat Canterbury last year after all. Of course they had to use home advantage against us - wet and cold condidtions. The cads!-)
Actually I had forgotten NH had a great NPC 2001, they only lost to Otago and Wellington, finishing 3rd and semi-finalist.
Pity (for them) they got spanked by Otago a second time.
Even if their strength is that no-one sees them coming, they should still have a strong year. All those "Blues" guys seem to love to get back over the bridge!
Can't say I blame them.
Wellington - Enough of this "on paper" and "if they can keep it together" sh*t. The only on-paper that counts is the results sheet - these guys suck!
If they find some "bottle" and "front up for 80" - they can be top 4.
If they don't... they will have their already rather shiny butts whipped some more!
In the words of the late Selwyn Toogood - "What do you say Wellington?"
Well there you have it... I leave it to history (and the discussion board) to prove me wrong!