July 14 - 2011 early start to Provincial Championship

The 2011 ITM Cup started on July 14, two weeks earlier than in 2010, with a match between Otago and North Harbour at Carisbrook. The reason for the early start (five days after the Super Rugby final) of course was that the Rugby World Cup was due to commence at Eden Park on September 9 and the New Zealand Rugby Union were required to have their domestic competition out of the way before the World Cup started.

The ITM chain of building supplies stores sponsored the NPC for several years

The NZRU complied, with the ITM Cup Premiership final played in Hamilton on September 3, (Canterbury beating Waikato 12 – 3) and the Championship final in Palmerston North a day later, with Hawkes Bay winning over Manawatu 35 – 30.

The 2011 ITM Cup was spread over 8 weeks, as against 15 weeks in 2010 and either 10 or 11 weeks 2012-2014. It was completed in this relatively short period by playing more mid week matches, with games played every day except Mondays. Perhaps surprisingly the players welcomed the greater frequency of matches, “more games, fewer practices”. Playing straight finals i e no semi finals, helped shorten the time frame.

Though the ITM Cup had to be done and dusted before the World Cup started the lower profile Heartland Championship was allowed to continue, though in a slightly earlier time frame, from 6 August to 8 October. In 2010 the Heartland ran from August 28 to October 30 and in 2012 from August 25 to October 27. Some of the 2011 World Cup teams trained in Heartland Championship unions resulting in some Heartland matches being played away from the usual venue so as to not interfere with World Cup preparations e g Poverty Bay played one match at Patutahi and another at the Gisborne Oval instead of at Poverty Bay’s headquarters, Rugby Park, where the Namibia RWC squad were training.

July 14 result:

Otago 46. Joubert (2), J Hill, Atiga, Ioane, Verbakel tries. Dickson 5 con, pen. Brown drop goal.

North Harbour 29. J King, Rei, Wulf, Luamanu tries. Botica 3 con., pen.

Referee. G W Jackson.

Veteran player Tony Brown