Round 5 marks the midway point of this year’s Currie Cup; the round will see a repeat of the opening weekend’s set of fixtures. It also sees the return of players who were involved in the extended Springbok training squad.
Common sense has finally prevailed with only a single Friday night fixture and all of the games being televised this weekend. Rugby fans are in for a treat on Saturday with an encounter between the Sharks and Pumas and the day concludes with the Lions vs Kings. The competitions leaders, the Lions and Bulls, remain undefeated as they head into this weekend’s action. The gap between the duo and the rest of the field is really starting to open up. Their closest rivals are ten points adrift and one expects the gap to have been extended come the conclusion of the weekend’s proceedings.
Blue Bulls vs Free State Cheetahs | Friday 04 September | Loftus Versfeld | 19:10
To Win (80mins)
Blue Bulls 2/9
Blue Bulls (-9.5) 9/10
Cheetahs (+9.5) 9/10
The season opener between the two sides saw the Bulls’ running game catch the Cheetahs off guard at Free State Stadium. With the duo committed to running rugby, this promises to be another high scoring derby. Both teams managed to get a win in Round 4, with the Cheetahs’ 28-21 victory over Province giving them their second win of the campaign. The Bulls on the other hand continued their undefeated streak with their victory in Kimberley. In terms of team news, the Bulls will have both Jan Serfontein and Marcel Van Der Merwe back in the mix after they were cut from the Springbok World Cup squad, while the forgotten man of Springbok rugby, Francois Hougaard, returns to the starting side having missed last weekend’s match due to personal commitments. The aforementioned Van der Merwe replaces Werner Kruger at tighthead and the other two changes to the Bulls starting XV sees South African schools captain Pierre Schoeman come in for Dean Greyling at loosehead, whilst Roelof Smit comes in for Jannes Kirsten on the flank. There is less change to the Cheetahs, with the only alteration to the starting XV coming at hooker where Elandre Huggett takes over from Jacques du Toit. Franco Smith also has a Springbok returnee to call upon in the form of Oupa Mohoje. The big loose forward will take up a spot on the Free State bench for this weekend’s clash.
VERDICT: Blue Bulls -9.5 (9/10)
With talismanic scrumhalf Francois Hougaard returning to the starting fifteen and a few axed ‘Boks back in the mix, I can’t see the Cheetahs being able to stop the Bulls juggernaut at Loftus.
Sharks vs Pumas | Saturday 05 September | Kings Park | 15:00
To Win (80mins)
Sharks (-11.5) 9/10
Pumas (+11.5) 9/10
The opening encounter between the two sides saw the Pumas win by an eight point margin, however, it must be said that the Sharks fielded a very inexperienced side that day. Like this weekend’s opponents did a fortnight ago, the Sharks managed to get the job done at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium last Friday. They were on the ropes for the majority of the match but managed to get over the line courtesy of an early second-half blitz of tries. While the Sharks managed to add some vital points to their log tally, the Pumas’ second defeat to the Lions this season saw them stay on the same amount of points they started the weekend on. The team news coming out of the Sharks camp is that Wandile Mjekevu and discarded Springbok Cobus Reinach will come into the starting XV for the injured duo of Odwa Ndungane and Michael Claassens. While Gary Gold has shown his cards, Jimmy Stonehouse is yet to announce his side. I suspect the majority of the personnel who did battle against the Lions will once again run out for the Pumas.
VERDICT: Pumas (+11.5) 9/10
Despite securing their second victory of the campaign last weekend, the Sharks are still yet to impress. The Pumas will give this Sharks side a real test this weekend but the Natalians should be able to eek out a win on their home patch.
Western Province vs Griquas | Saturday 05 September | Newlands Stadium | 17:05
To Win (80mins)
Western Province 1/20
Western Province (-18.5) 9/10
Griquas (+18.5) 9/10
Western Province once again looked out of shape in their loss to the Cheetahs. While the backline has been unsettled by Juan De Jongh’s injury, their forward pack has also been affected by the absence of Oliver Kebble. The Griquas remained winless in the competition after yet another defeat to the Bulls last time out. Although the men from Kimberley will be buoyed by their improved second-half showing, they still displayed lapses in concentration at crucial periods during last weekend’s game. Both teams are currently struggling for form and will be desperate to get a win in this one. Province hold a psychological advantage over their opponents, having hammered them in the opening round. Word out of the Province camp is that Kurt Coleman will come in for Demetri Catrakilis at ten. On the Griquas side of things, Hilton Lobberts returns to the starting lineup.
VERDICT: Western Province (-18.5) 9/10
Two losses from the past two games has resulted in the Cheetahs catching up to Allister Coetzee’s side on the Currie Cup log. Both he and his charges will be desperate to return to winning ways this weekend. With the Griquas still yet to win a game, Province have been handed the ideal opportunity to do just this.
Golden Lions vs Eastern Province Kings | Saturday 05 August | Emirates Airline Park | 19:10
To Win (80mins)
Lions (-27.5) 9/10
Kings (+27.5) 9/10
Last time the two sides met the Lions put a half century on the board whilst the Kings could only muster fourteen points. The men from the Highveld managed to extend their undefeated record in the competition with a 30-point victory over the Pumas last weekend. This high scoring win has seen the Lions move into first place on the log due to them having a superior points difference to the Bulls. The Kings put in a valiant display against the Sharks last Saturday, which saw them secure their third bonus point of the season. They have endured a tough week however with the players threatening to go on strike due to unpaid wages. Annoyingly, neither side has named their squads for the clash but I can’t see either team making wholesale changes for this one.
VERDICT: Lions (-27.5) 9/10
The margin may be a large one, but with the Lions are in such fine form that I can see them easily eclipsing the handicap.