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Currie Cup: Week 3 Preview
Our rugby scribe gives his verdict on this weekend’s four Currie Cup fixtures which get underway on Friday afternoon.
To say week two was action-packed would be an understatement. We saw Lions lock, Lourens Erasmus, smash the Currie Cup’s fastest try record during the Lions 68-26 victory over the Pumas last Saturday. The day also saw the Cheetahs run out 43-20 victors over a much fancied Bulls outfit.
This all came off the back of the Sharks claiming a bonus point victory over the Griquas and the Kings going down to Boland, the day prior.
This week throws up a few tantalizing clashes, the pick of which sees Western Province and the Cheetahs square off at DHL Newlands.
Boland Kavaliers v Sharks | Friday 19 August | Boland Stadium | 15:00
To Win (80 Mins)
Boland 11/1 | Draw 28/1 | Sharks 1/50
Boland (+20.5) 9/10 | Sharks (-20.5) 9/10
Boland came into their own in the second half of their clash with the Kings last week. While the men from Wellington struggled to exert themselves on the game during the first stanza, they were a joy to watch when they clicked in the second-half. Some great attacking play saw them run in three tries during the second 40-minutes and it could well have been more had it not been for a few uncharacteristic handling errors from veteran winger Daniel Demas.
The Sharks also managed to garner a bonus point win last weekend, running out 46-24 victors over a spirited Griquas outfit. The platform for the Natalians victory was set by their dominant forward pack with the returning Tera Mtembu really putting in a shift. This great platform allowed a young but exciting Sharks backline to fire with pivot Inny Radebe orchestrating proceedings magnificently.
The Sharks will once again look to grind their opponents down through their pack and then get the ball out to this promising backline. They should be able to do this as the Boland pack were dominated by a really mediocre Kings pack.
In terms of team news, Chilliboy Ralepelle gets his first start of the campaign while Heimar Williams comes into the outside-centre berth in place of Lukhanyo Arm. There is also a return for veteran winger Odwa Ndugane who comes in on the right wing in place of Neil Maritz.
Verdict: Sharks (-20.5) 9/10
I said in my outright preview that the Sharks will struggle in the tournament due to their conservative backline. They proved my theory wrong last week with a very exciting performance. If their young backs can produce similar performances then they should be able to clear the –20.5 handicap with ease.
Western Province v Cheetahs | Friday 19 August | DHL Newlands | 17:10
To Win (80 Mins)
Western Province 9/10 | Draw 22/1 | Cheetahs 9/10
The pick of this week’s action sees a youthful Western Province outfit take on the Free State Cheetahs at 17:10 on Friday afternoon. Province had last weekend off which should have helped them work on their defensive structure which was non-existent during their opening round 45-26 defeat to the Bulls.
The Cheetahs will travel to Cape Town with their tails well and truly up. They currently occupy top spot on the log and are coming off the back of a 23 point victory over the Bulls. While putting 23 points over the men from Pretoria is a great achievement, coach Franco Smith will probably be more pleased with how clinical the Cheetahs were on attack. The Free Staters hardly put a foot wrong with ball in hand and some of the tries they ran in were sublime.
In terms of team news for this one, the Cheetahs will be without talismanic skipper Francois Venter who misses out due to injury. His outside-centre berth will be filled by the promising Nico Lee while scrumhalf Tian Meyer will take over the captaincy. On the Western Province side of things, young pivot Brandon Thompson gets his first start of the season while former Springbok Jaco Taute comes in at fullback. There’s also a return for Sikhumbozo Notshe who has been released from the Springbok squad.
Verdict: Western Province
Venter is a huge loss for the Cheetahs. His absence coupled with the return of Notshe and Taute for Province has swayed me to back the hosts. Get on a straight Western Province win at 9/10
Blue Bulls v Eastern Province Kings | Friday 19 August | Loftus Versveld | 19:20
To Win (80 Mins)
Bulls 1/100 | Draw 33/1 | Kings 18/1
Bulls (-38.5) 9/10 | Kings (+38.5) 9/10
The Bulls are next up to take on the hapless Kings. This fixture couldn’t come at a better time as Nollis Marais’ side were totally outclassed by Free Staters last weekend. The Kings also come into this one off a demoralising but not unexpected defeat at the hands of the Boland Kavaliers.
The Kings really looked out of their depth last week and that was against a promoted Boland side. They likely to be even more exposed this Friday as they are coming up against a side loaded with players who have Super Rugby experience.
One of the Bulls Super Rugby stars will return to action this week with lock RG Snyman having overcome his long-term ankle injury that he sustained while he was on duty with the SA A squad. Other changes to the Bulls run on XV see Liza Gqoboka come into the front row and Tuks representative, Duncan Matthews, come into the fullback role.
Verdict: Bulls (-38.5) 9/10
This Kings side are on for a hiding to nothing. Back the Bulls to clear the –38.5 handicap with confidence.
Griquas v Lions | Saturday 20 August | Griqua Park | 14:10
To Win (80 Mins)
Griquas 12/1 | Draw 28/1 | Lions 1/50
Griquas (+20.5) 9/10 | Lions (-20.5) 9/10
We close out week three with a clash between the Griquas and the defending champions at Griqua Park. The Lions illustrated their title credentials last weekend blitzing the Pumas in a game that not only saw the fastest try in the history of the Currie Cup but also a runner for try of the season. The contender for try of the season saw the Lions run the ball from behind their own goal. That 104-meter Sylvan Mahuza try encapsulated the Lions brand of rugby perfectly.
The Griquas gave a good account of themselves against the Sharks last week but their opponents superior quality shone through in the end. This game is likely to follow a similar script to last week’s one with the Griquas giving their all but coming up short in the end due to the difference in quality between the two teams.
Verdict: Lions (-20.5) 9/10
This game should be meat and drink for this Lions outfit. I can see them clearing the handicap with plenty to spare.