The Best of the Day preview swings the ball wide with rugby union tips for the Mitre 10 Cup season opener between Southland and Northland.

Mitre 10 Cup Tips – Southland V Northland

17:35 (AEST) @ Rugby Park, Invercargill

Last meeting: Round 6, 2018: Northland 26 d Southland 10 at Toll Stadium

Final Thoughts: The Best of the Day preview breaks down the first match of the 2019 Mitre 10 Cup, New Zealand’s top domestic rugby union competition – and one of the world’s strongest.

Keen rivals Southland and Northland are both in the second-tier Championship. But Northland are coming off back-to-back semi-final appearances, while Southland finished as winless wooden spooners in 2017-18.

Northland are gunning for promotion to the premiership this year after two seasons of immense progress.

The Taniwha will rely on the nucleus of last year’s squad to drive their campaign. Exciting young forwards Tom Robinson and Josh Goodhue, and experienced backs Rene Ranger and Jack Debreczeni provide the northerners with great balance and strikepower.

But Robinson, a potential All Blacks bolter, is unavailable for the early rounds due to injury. Ranger also sits out the season opener.

Southland are on an excruciating 21-game Mitre 10 Cup losing streak. Their last victory was against Northland at home in 2016.

The Stags conceded an average of 40 points per game last season. But they have made some key additions for 2019, headlined by Chiefs utility-back Marty McKenzie.

Northland have won their last two against Southland, a 44-13 demolition in Invercargill in 2017 and a 26-10 home win last year.

Unsurprisingly, the visitors are warm favourites to extend the Stags’ losing streak. But a Thursday night in the deep south during the middle of winter is the most unwelcoming road trip on offer in the Mitre 10 Cup.

With a big start, Southland look a top-value Best of the Day Option.

Tip: Handicap – Southland +8.5 @ $1.95