Currie Cup: Round 5 Preview

We preview week five of the 2016 Currie Cup which kicks off this Wednesday. 

Things are starting to take shape on the Currie Cup log as we enter the midway point of the season. The Sharks – who I churlishly wrote off before the campaign – stormed to the top of the standings with a 26-19 victory over the Bulls last week. They are followed by the Free State Cheetahs who have a game in hand over the Natalians as they enjoyed a bye last week.

The Lions are seven points off the Sharks after they bounced back from their shock defeat at the hands of the Griquas with a 60-12 victory over the Kavaliers last week. Western Province also managed to get a vital win under their belt, seeing off a spirited yet blunt Kings team on Saturday afternoon. The game that stole center stage last week was the clash between the Pumas and Griquas. The Griquas managed to edge the Pumas in a seesaw battle that saw a combined scoreline in excess of 76 points.

We’ve got a full set of fixtures in-store this week with the Griquas and Kings getting proceedings underway on Wednesday afternoon and the always fiery coastal derby between Western Province and the Sharks closing out the round.
Last week netted me a decent return with all my tips coming in. I’ll try and repeat the feat this time around.

Griquas v Eastern Province Kings | Wednesday 31 August | Griqua Park | 17:00

To Win (80 Mins)
Griquas N/A | Draw 25/1 | EP Kings 20/1
Griquas (-36.5) 9/10 | EP Kings (+36.5) 9/10
This game was actually meant to be the tournament opener but due to the Kings administration being as useful as a hole-ridden bucket, it was forced to be postponed.

The hosts for this one have built up some decent momentum in recent weeks beating the Lions in round 4 and the Pumas last week. Key to their recent success has been the form of Clinton Swart. The burly inside centre come fly-half has been immaculate with the boot, slotting conversions and penalties for fun.

The Kings have also given a decent account of themselves over the past fortnight but are yet to win a game. They were decent against the Bulls in round 3 but were unable to match that intensity against Western Province this past Saturday and ended up going down by 30 points. The result was to be expected, however, as the Kings have picked up a plethora of injuries and their threadbare squad was always going to struggle, especially considering their packed fixtures list.

Verdict: Griquas (-36.5) 9/10
Simply put, the Griquas will walk this one. Get on the men from Kimberley clearing the -36.5 handicap at 9/10.

Boland v Pumas | Friday 2 September | Boland Stadium | 15:00

To Win (80 Mins)
Boland 29/20 | Draw 25/1 | Pumas 5/10
Boland (+4.5) 9/10 | Pumas (-4.5) 9/10
Our second fixture of the week is another one of those B-list encounters, but as we saw last week, these games can often turn out to be rather captivating.

The Pumas were involved in arguably the game of the weekend last time out going down to the Griquas by six points at Mbombela Stadium. The Pumas produced some brilliant rugby during the helter-skelter encounter and were unlucky not to get the win as it was a game that could have really gone either way.

Boland come into this one off the back of a 48 point humbling from the Lions. The heavy defeat has left Boland with the worst points differential in the competition. Yes, that’s right, the Kings have a better points differential compared to the Kavaliers.

The two sides met earlier in the year during the qualifying segment of the Currie Cup, with the Pumas edging it by two points in a low scoring affair.

Verdict: Pumas 5/10
I fancy the Pumas to take this one. They looked decent against the Griquas last week and Boland’s defensive structure has been found wanting.

Blue Bulls v Lions | Friday 2 September | Loftus Versveld | 19:00

To Win (80 Mins)
Bulls 22/10 | Draw 25/1 | Lions 7/20
Bulls (+6.5) 9/10| Lions (-6.5) 9/10
While the coastal derby between Western Province and the Sharks is being billed as the highlight of the round, I think Friday night's clash between the Bulls and Lions will steal the show.

These sides have been involved in some thrilling clashes over the past three years, with the combined score passing the 50 point mark in all of the previous five encounters. The Lions have managed to win four of the last five Currie Cup clashes between the sides and tore the Bulls apart in their Super Rugby encounter at Loftus earlier this year.

The hosts for this one come into the game off the back of a seven-point defeat to the Sharks, while the Lions are coming off the back of a huge victory over Boland.

In terms of team news for this one, the Lions will welcome back Rohan Janse van Rensburg  and possibly South Africa sevens star Kwagga Smith, while the Bulls will be without flanker Jannes Kirsten who suffered an injury to his AC joint against the Sharks.

Verdict: Lions (-6.5) 9/10
The return of van Rensburg is a massive coup for the Lions. The burly centre was one of the standout players against the Bulls during their 56-20 Super Rugby victory at Loftus. I can see the Tuks old boy inspiring his side to a large victory.

Free State Cheetahs v Eastern Province Kings | Saturday 3 September | Toyota Stadium | 15:00

To Win (80 Mins)
Cheetahs N/A | Draw 35/1 | Kings 15/1
Cheetahs (-31.5) 9/10 | Kings (+31.5) 9/10
The Cheetahs will return from their week off with an extremely kind fixture against the Kings. The Free Staters have been in sublime form this term but we’ve often seen a bye week wreck a side’s moment. This shouldn’t be the case for Franco Smith’s men as they will have a hit out against a Kings side that are ripe for the taking.

While the Kings did have their moments last week, in all honesty, they were lucky not to concede more points as Province had two tries disallowed in the first half.

In terms of team news for this one, the Kings have no fresh injury concerns as do the Cheetahs.

Verdict: Cheetahs (-31.5) 9/10
This game should be meat and drink for the Cheetahs. The Kings have had a hectic playing schedule and there’s no way they will have recovered from Wednesday night’s exertions by the time this one rolls around.

Western Province v Sharks | Saturday 3 September | DHL Newlands | 17:00

To Win (80 Mins)
Province 14/10 | Draw 25/1 | Sharks 52/100
Province (+5.5) 9/10 | Sharks (-5.5) 9/10
This coastal derby is sure to be a cracker, despite Western Province’s faltering start to the season. The men from the Western Cape of South Africa finally managed to get a win under their belt, downing the Kings 36-6.

Province were nowhere near their best against the whipping boys of the tournament last weekend but the result as well as the form of Scottish international, Huw Jones, will inspire some confidence. The Edinburgh native has become a real thorn in the side for EP having scored two hat-tricks against the beleaguered union in the last four months. He will need to up his game this weekend, however, as the Sharks centre pairing of Esterhuizen and Am are a lot more defensively sound than the Kings' makeshift midfield.

The Natalians continued their unbeaten start to the campaign by seeing off the Bulls in a tense affair in Durban. Young fullback Curwin Bosch’s flawless kicking display helped bail a stuttering Sharks side out. Robert du Preez’s men will have to offer more with ball in hand this weekend if they are to maintain their perfect start to the season.

The early team news coming out of the Province camp is that Daniel du Plessis has suffered another injury that will rule him out for the next few weeks. John Dobson is also sweating on the fitness of Rynhardt Elstadt, who is said to be touch and go. The Natalians are also missing a few of their stalwarts, with Michael Claasens, Patrick Lambie and Stephan Lewies still a few weeks away from full fitness.

Verdict: Western Province (+5.5) 9/10
I’ve got a sneaky suspicion that Province may just sneak this one. The Natalians were heavily reliant on Curwin Bosch’s kicking game last week, and while the young man kicked magnificently on his home patch, he may struggle at Newlands where the crowd is likely to make him feel less than welcome every time he walks up to have a shot at goal. The sensible option here is to back Province on the plus but for those who are looking for more reward, I recommend taking Province on the straight win.

Written by Darry Worthington for!

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