With the Rugby World Cup kicking off on Friday evening and the Currie Cup round robin phase starting to build to an entertaining crescendo, fans have an obscene amount of rugby to feast upon.
Round 6 lived up to its billing with an upset victory for the Kings last Friday setting the tone. Saturday saw another unexpected result in the Griquas vs Pumas game. MJ Mentz’s charges managed to get their first win of the season with an emphatic performance against Jimmy Stonehouse’s men. The final upset of the weekend came in the highly entertaining clash between the Bulls and Lions, with the men from Johannesburg claiming the spoils in a thriller at Loftus. Round 7 promises to provide more entertaining match-ups with the Bulls vs Western Province game looking particularly enticing.
|IRB Rugby World Cup 2015 Fixtures|
Pumas vs EP Kings | Friday 18 September | Mbombela Stadium |17:00
To Win (80mins)
EP Kings 3/1
Pumas (-9.5) 9/10
EP Kings (+9.5) 9/10
The Pumas’ hopes of qualifying for the semi-finals were dealt a blow by a resurgent Griquas team last time out. The team from Nelspruit are now sixth on the log, four points behind the fourth-placed Sharks. The Pumas’ next three games will see them take on Province at Newlands, then the Cheetahs at the Mbombela Stadium and finally the Bulls at the same venue the following week. With some tough fixtures ahead, the Pumas will have to take the full five points from this one to have a sniff of reaching the knockout stages. This is easier said than done however, with the Kings proving to be dogged opposition throughout the tournament. The men from Eastern Province were nothing short of spectacular against the Cheetahs last weekend. Despite being a man down for the majority of the second half, the Kings managed to bag their first victory of the season. This win will have provided a massive morale boost for Brent Janse van Rensburg’s charges. In terms of team news, the Kings have made only one change to the side that defeated the Cheetahs, with Schalk Ferreira coming in for Lizo Gqoboka in the front row. On the Pumas’ side of things, Jimmy Stonehouse is yet to announce his starting lineup but is unlikely to do much tinkering.
VERDICT: EP Kings (+9.5) 9/10
While I fully expect the Pumas to win at home I think the margin may be a lot tighter than some pundits are predicting. The Kings should be able to keep it within the 9.5 margin.
Western Province vs Blue Bulls | Friday 18 September | DHL Newlands | 19:00
To Win (80mins)
Western Province 7/10
Blue Bulls 11/10
Western Province (+2.5) 9/10
Blue Bulls (-2.5) 9/10
With five points separating the sides on the overall log, this game should be quite the affair. Both teams know that a win in this one will greatly enhance their chances of securing a home semi-final. While Province managed to get one over their coastal rivals last weekend, the Bulls went down in their derby encounter against the Lions. This was Nollis Marais’ charges first taste of defeat in this year’s Currie Cup and it will be interesting to see how they respond to the setback. In terms of team news, Allister Coetzee has made a solitary change to his starting lineup, with Bongi Mbonambi taking over from Scarra Ntubeni at hooker. Nollis Marais has decided to make a change at flyhalf, with Louis Fouche coming in for Christian Schoeman. The last time the two sides met was at Loftus in August. The Bulls ran out victors in a high scoring affair that saw the total points margin pass the 75 mark. While this game may see a few less points put on the board, it should be just as entertaining.
VERDICT: Blue Bulls 11/10
Western Province may have taken the points against the Sharks but that was mainly due to the Natal side being poor rather than Province being fantastic. My money’s on the Bulls to return to winning ways at Newlands and all but secure a home semi-final.
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Golden Lions vs Sharks | Saturday 19 September | Emirates Airline Park | 14:30
To Win (80mins)
Golden Lions 2/11
Golden Lions (-12.5) 9/10
Sharks (+12.5) 9/10
The Lions took a step closer to securing a home final with their twelve-point victory at Loftus last weekend. Johan Ackermann’s charges were untouchable in the first half, amassing a massive lead heading into halftime. Although the Bulls did come back into the game in the second stanza, the Lions had enough in the tank to see them hold onto their first half lead. The Sharks also put in a positive first half display, but were ultimately defeated by their own inability to finish off promising try scoring opportunities in the second stanza. The Natal side owe a great deal of gratitude to the Kings, whose victory over the Cheetahs has kept them in the driving seat for a semi-final spot. The last time the two sides met was in Round 3 at Kings Park. The Sharks let a halftime lead slip which resulted in the Lions running out 31-16 victors.
VERDICT: Golden Lions (-12.5) 9/10
The Lions are playing some scintillating rugby and I honestly can’t see the Sharks putting up a fight especially with the game taking place at Ellis Park. The Lions should canter past the 12.5 margin.
Free State Cheetahs vs Griquas | Saturday 19 September | Free State Stadium | 17:10
To Win (80mins)
Cheetahs (-13.5) 9/10
Griquas (+13.5) 9/10
The Griquas finally got their first win of the campaign last weekend and will want to add a few more to their tally before the competition ends. They will come up against a wounded Cheetahs team who will want to make up for the embarrassing loss to the Kings. It will be interesting to see how both teams react to last weekend’s results. Will the Cheetahs show some of that famous Free State fight or will the Griquas go on a little run that sees them close out their season on a positive note? The team news coming out of the Cheetahs camp is that Raymond Rhule will return to the starting fifteen in place of Cornal Hendricks. While Rhule is the solitary change to the backline, Franco Smith has opted to do a bit more tinkering to his pack. Henco Venter comes in on the openside flank whilst Francois Uys comes into the second row. Hawies Fourie is yet to name his Griquas match day squad at the time of writing.
VERDICT: Cheetahs (-13.5) 9/10
With the Cheetahs still in the hunt for a semi-final spot I expect them to give it their all in this encounter and put on a display that sees them surpass the margin.