One more round of games remains before the Heartland Championship splits into the Meads Cup and Lochore Cup semifinals. Hayden Meikle looks at how things might pan out.
West Coast v East Coast (Greymouth), Mid Canterbury v King Country (Ashburton), Poverty Bay v Buller (Gisborne), South Canterbury v Thames Valley (Timaru), Wanganui v Horowhenua-Kapiti (Whanganui), Wairarapa-Bush v North Otago (Masterton).
Wanganui (34 points): Guaranteed to qualify top, no matter what happens this weekend. Favoured to win a seventh Meads Cup.
South Canterbury (27): Not running at 100% but has home advantage this week. Can still miss Meads Cup so can’t be complacent.
Thames Valley (27): Can host a Meads Cup semifinal if it beats South Canterbury. Would only drop out of the top four if Horowhenua-Kapiti upsets Wanganui.
King Country (26): Not guaranteed a Meads Cup spot so will want to get points against Mid Canterbury, or also hope Wanganui is not upset.
Horowhenua-Kapiti (23): Seems likely to host a Lochore Cup semifinal.
Wairarapa-Bush (21): Could miss playoffs altogether if it loses badly to North Otago, and both Mid Canterbury and West Coast win. But favoured to host a Lochore Cup semifinal.
Mid Canterbury (17): On the bubble. Out of the playoffs if it loses and two of the three teams immediately below it win.
West Coast (17): Should get five points, so Lochore Cup semifinal seems assured.
North Otago (16): Teetering. Needs to win in Masterton to avoid worst season in 20 years.
Poverty Bay (15): Slim chance to make top eight if it wins and other results go its way.
Buller (11): Disappointing season. Only playing for pride.
East Coast (1): Should play Mitre 10 Cup laughing stock Southland in a wooden spoon game.