Written by @QuintenLetcher for @Hollywoodbets. Follow them both on Twitter and Facebook now!
The Sharks came away with a comfortable 34-18 home victory over the battling Bulls last week, meaning they top the table ahead of Western Province as we head into the fifth week of Currie Cup action. Province must feel more than a little cheated after ending up on the wrong end of a controversial TMO decision that saw the Lions awarded a penalty try and Province reduced to 14 men at Ellis Park last week. A decision that resulted in, up until that point, a Province dominated game finishing as a 31-all draw. The Cheetahs impressed at home against the resilient Griquas, their convincing 40-20 win moves them into a comfortable second spot. The six team Currie Cup format means making money is a little tricky, especially during the early stages with all the big guns off strutting their stuff in the Rugby Championships, creating perhaps too level a playing field in our local competition. Let’s see if we can find a way to beat the system.
Griquas vs Golden Lions | Saturday 07 September | GWK Park | 15:00
The Lions couldn’t have asked for a better time to be heading to Kimberley to take on the Peacock Blues. After starting off the season on a high with a precious victory over the Sharks in Durban, things quickly went south for Pote Human and his charges, who have since been crippled with injuries.
To Win (80mins)
Griquas (+5.5) 9/10
Lions (-5.5) 9/10
The second row is the biggest concern for poor Pote Human at the moment. Hilton Lobberts managed to break his arm against the Cheetahs in Bloem last week, which makes him the fifth Griquas lock sidelined this season. Newbies Patrick O’Brien and Victor Kruger will team up in the engine room against the Lions. There is some good news for the home side this week, Marnus Schoeman returns to the flank, and joins Carel Greef and Burger Schoeman in the loose trio. In the backline, Jean Stemmet takes over from JP Nel at centre and Richard Lawson starts on the wing in place of Nico Scheepers.
No final team announcements yet for the Lions, but I don’t think we’ll see too many unforced changes to the side that fought their way back from a fifteen point deficit at the halfway mark last week to walk away with three points from the draw, having secured four tries to Province’s three. Elton Jantjies is looking much more at home at pivot for the Lions than he ever did for the Stormers while on loan during the Super XV. Perhaps having the reliable boot of Marnitz Boshoff taking the pressure off him has helped.
VERDICT: Lions (-5.5) 9/10
If Griquas were full strength going into this match I wouldn’t think twice about throwing my money behind them, but with their casualty list growing everyday and the Lions building some good momentum in the competition I have no real option but to back the visitors this week. The Lions by 7.
Blue Bulls vs Free State Cheetahs | Saturday 07 September | Loftus Versfeld | 17:05
The Cheetahs head into Pretoria optimistic of their chances in the capital following their respectable 20-point victory over Griquas in Round 4. While the Bulls looked a far better side in Durban last week than they did against the Lions in Round 3, they still have a long way to go if they have any aspirations of finishing the season anywhere higher than stone last.
To Win (80mins)
Bulls (+3.5) 9/10
Cheetahs (-3.5) 9/10
Time is running out for the Bulls to turn things around, but if there is one thing we do know about this side it is just how resilient they can be when forced into a corner. Francois Venter returns for the Bulls this week and will take over in the midfield from Ulrich Beyers, who drops to the bench. In the forwards, the injured Morne Mellett is replaced by ex-Cheetahs prop Marcel van der Merwe in the front row, and Jacques Engelbrecht earns his first start for the Bulls as he takes over from Jacques du Plessis on the flank.
Naka Drotske has decided to stick with his winning formula from last weekend, hoping to claim another five points this week when they run out at Loftus. Sitting in second place on the log at the moment, the Cheetahs could sneak into top spot if the Sharks take their eye of the ball against their coastal foes in Cape Town this Saturday.
VERDICT: Cheetahs (-3.5) 9/10
I am always weary of the Bulls at home, despite what happened the last time they ran out at Loftus. Still, their current form is difficult to back, and the Cheetahs are looking pretty solid at the moment. The Cheetahs by 6.
Western Province vs Sharks | Saturday 07 September | Newlands | 19:10
The great coastal calamity takes place in Cape Town this weekend, with the Sharks still smarting from the last time they met Province in this competition, which was in last year’s final, in Durban, where they lost. I am sure they have some catching up to do.
To Win (80mins)
Western Province 17/20
Western Province (-1.5) 9/10
Sharks (+1.5) 9/10
Western Province coach Allister Coetzee has made only one change to the side that drew with the Lions last week, as Louis Schreuder returns at number nine, forcing Nic Groom down to the bench. Gary van Aswegen returns from injury, but will have to be content with playing off the bench as Kurt Coleman holds onto the flyhalf position.
The impressive youngster Fred Zeilinga drops down to the bench as the Sharks make five changes to the side that took down the Bulls in Durban. This means veteran Butch James returns to the starting XV and will make his 50th Currie Cup appearance for the Sharks when he runs out at Newlands on Saturday. Danie Mienie and Rayno Gerber come into the front row, while Sizo Maseko takes over on the wing from the injured Odwa Ndungane. This week sees the return of Tim Whitehead to the Sharks midfield where he joins Louis Ludik.
VERDICT: Sharks 1/1
There really is not that much between these two sides at the moment, the bookies barely having a stab at how this is going to pan out, hence the handicaps. The Sharks have looked ever so slightly more convincing to me, despite the fact that Province remain the only unbeaten team in this year’s competition. Sharks by 3.
Think we've got it wrong? Well leave your comments below and tell us how you think this is going to play out.
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