Both semis will be nail biters. The Auckland/Canterbury game will have no love lost in it as that derby always has, but with recent form the advantage is in Canterbury's favour. The Wellington/CM match will be a zinger. Wellington have been the form team in the Premiership and quite frankly have not looked like losing a game all season. Counties Manukau on the other hand have knocked over some heady opponents buoyed by their winning and retaining the Ranfurly Shield. Will they be up to this challenge away from home? Their form suggests Wellington should win, but (and a big but here) CM scored 24 points against the other hot team in the Premiership last time out so they do have attacking prowess. How they combat on defense a team as strong as Wellington is yet to be seen.
As for picks, Canterbury will steamroll Auckland (home or away) and Wellington will play a shocker with CM being the upset of the tournament with a very close win. I don't think they'll get up in a Canterbury/CM final so once again Canterbury to win it all.
Now for the Championship. Like Wellington, innocuous Tasman are assured of a home semi but unlike the Premiership table, the placings below are not set in stone. Hawkes Bay (24) Otago (21) Southland (20) and Manawatu (18) are all plying for three spots. Otago have Northland and Auckland in their double header this weekend and should get at least 4 points off the Taniwha to be assured of a top four spot. Hawkes Bay play Wellington this weekend and a loss will see them retain a top four placing but their position is uncertain depending on other games. Southland play CM in a Ranfulry Shield match and knowing the Boys from Oyster Country they will be up to that challenge but I don't see them beating a very confident CM so they languish on those 20. Now their hearts are in their mouth as Manawatu step up versus Tasman away. The Turbos have been slow starters but are starting to hit their straps and (being parochial here) I'm picking the Turbos to knock over Tasman and leap to 22 points knocking Southland out of the semis.
So how does that pan out then With Tasman (1st) Otago (2nd) Hawkes Bay (3rd) and Manawatu (4th) Otago take on HB at home, no clear winner there but money is on Otago and Tasman in a rematch with Manawatu to do the business setting up a Tasman/Otago final in Nelson. Otago picked to spoil Tasman's party and go into Promotion/Relegation with BOP and Otago to be promoted.