The 2014 season of the ITM Cup was officially launched at a special event held at Auckland’s Western Springs Stadium recently, attended by captains and senior players representing the 14 ITM Cup provincial teams.
While all the teams eye the ITM Cup Premiership and Championship trophies up for grabs, the first competition Ranfurly Shield challenge strikes in Week 2 of an 11-week competition.
New Zealand general manager rugby Neil Sorensen says the ITM Cup holds an important place in the rugby landscape, and continues to be an important springboard for emerging talent.
“What we love about the ITM Cup is its purity and how it straddles the amateur and professional parts of the game,” Mr Sorenson says.
“This competition brings out the very best in traditional rivalries, and it helps to tie communities together in a very visual way, through the use of provincial colours.
“Today’s launch serves as a timely reminder that the dream for higher honours in rugby often starts here with the ITM Cup.”
ITM chief excutive Gordon Buswell welcomed the start of the season as another great opportunity to celebrate provincial rugby.
“Last year’s ITM Cup saw the Ranfurly Shield change hands many times, which generated a huge degree of excitement as provinces fought hard to hold on to the shield,” Mr Buswell says.
“And my feeling is that we’re in for more of the same this time around. At ITM, we’re passionate about our support of the national provincial championship, and every one of our 93 stores from Mangonui in the north to Invercargill in the south will be waving the flag for their province,” Mr Buswell says.
This year’s competition began with Taranaki hosting Ranfurly Shield holders Counties Manukau at Yarrow Stadium.
The ITM Cup Championship Final — to decide the promotion and relegation teams — will be played on Friday, October 24, while the ITM Cup Premiership Final will be played on Saturday, October 25.