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Currie Cup: Round 9 Preview
We preview the final round robin set of Currie Cup fixtures which get underway this Friday with a blockbuster clash between the Lions and Sharks.
With only a week of round robin action left, the 2016 Currie Cup is about to become more frenetic than a Pieter de Villiers press conference. As it stands, the Cheetahs have already secured a home semi-final while the Bulls are also guaranteed a place in the semi-finals, although, it’s yet to be determined if they’ll host it or not. It’s an absolute minefield below the top two sides with only three points separating the third-placed Sharks and the fifth placed Lions. Sandwiched in between those two are Western Province, who will more than likely bag the full five-point haul from their clash with Boland. A full points haul would leave the Cape-based side on 27 points which would be enough to secure them an away semi-final.
So, while the only game that really matters this week is Friday’s clash between the Sharks and the defending champions, there’s still some great value on offer for the other three fixtures.
Lions v Sharks | Friday 30 September | Emirates Airline Park | 17:00
To Win (80 Mins)
Lions 3/10 | Draw 25/1 | Sharks 5/2
Lions (-8.5) 9/10 | Sharks (+8.5) 9/10
I am a traditionalist and the last two weeks have been incredibly frustrating with overlapping Friday evening fixtures and no five pm Saturday kick offs. Whichever genius decided to take the old “Friday Night Lights” approach to this season’s Currie Cup should be fired immediately. If this same person is responsible for scheduling the kick-off time of this Friday’s blockbuster, then I think a brief jail term should be on the cards for this master fixtures maker. I mean who schedules the premiere game of the weekend for a five o’clock kick off when it could easily have been pushed back to the seven o’clock slot? Anyway, that’s enough ranting for one piece.
Mark my words, this game is going to be an absolute cracker. Both sides need a win to stay in the competition. There is almost an air of desperation surrounding this clash as the Sharks are looking to atone for last year’s round robin phase exit and the Lions are looking to defend their title.
In a twist of irony, both sides come into this one off the back of big victories over the hapless Kings with the Sharks running out 53-0 victors in Durban a fortnight ago and the Lions putting 71 points past the cellar-dwellers last Friday.
While the Lions were mauling the Kings last week, the Sharks squad enjoyed a much-needed bye. The importance of their bye week – you owe the Kings bumbling administrators one, Sharks fans – can’t be underestimated. Not only will the Natalians come into this one fresh and raring to go but they will also welcome back seasoned loose forward Keegan Daniel and Springbok prop Lourens Adriaanse. Conversely, the Lions will be without their Springboks prop, Julian Redelinghuys, who will be part of the Springboks’ match day 23.
Verdict: Sharks (+8.5) 9/10
If you had asked me a week ago I would have told you to stick your money on the Lions handicap. Having looked at the two sides, my money is now on the Sharks plus.
EP Kings v Pumas | Friday 30 September | Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium | 18:00
To Win (80 Mins)
EP Kings 5/1 | Draw 25/1 | Pumas 1/10
EP Kings (+14.5) 9/10 | Pumas (-14.5) 9/10
We will see the dead rubber to end all dead rubbers at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium this Friday with the winless Kings taking on the winless Pumas in the battle to avoid the wooden spoon. The Pumas are favourites to avoid the dreaded ‘spoon’ as they are four points clear of their opponents.
Both teams have endured torrid campaigns and have points differentials that resemble Siberian weather temperatures. The Kings currently sit on a differential of -227 and have shipped an average of 41.75 points per game – that has to be some kind of record! The Pumas have also struggled to keep their try ine unblemished. The men from Mpumalanga have conceded 291 points at an average of 36.3 points per game. So we should be in for a few tries this Friday.
The two sides last met in the Currie Cup qualifiers back in June with the Pumas running out 33 point victors in Nelspruit.
Verdict: Pumas (-14.5) 9/10
While I doubt the Pumas will put as many points past the kings as they did during the qualifiers, I can still see them winning comfortably. Get on the -14.5 with confidence.
Western Province v Boland | Friday 30 September | DHL Newlands | 19:00
To Win (80 Mins)
WP 1/100 | Draw 33/1 | Boland 10/1
WP (-28.5) 9/10 | Boland (+28.5) 9/10
The final hurdle in the way of Western Province securing what seemed an unlikely semi-final berth three weeks ago is a plucky Boland squad that would love nothing more than to get one over their provincial rivals. This is about as likely to happen as the Springboks beating the All Blacks in two weeks time, however.
The men from the Western Cape overcame a dogged performance from the Griquas last week, who were so fired up by their 130th-anniversary celebrations that I was convinced that young Jacobus Jonker was going to jump into the crowd after he opened the scoring on the ten-minute mark.
Boland come into this one off the back of a 26-48 loss to the Bulls. The loss was their fifth of the season and I’m pretty sure that tally will be extended to six this Friday.
Verdict: WP (-28.5) 9/10
It's a big handicap but I reckon a late surge will see Western Province past it.
Cheetahs v Griquas | Saturday 1 October | Free State Stadium | 14:00
To Win (80 Mins)
Cheetahs 1/25 | Draw 33/1 | Griquas 9/1
Cheetahs (-21.5) 9/10 | Griquas (+21.5) 9/10
The Cheetahs will look to end their 2016 round robin campaign unbeaten by seeing off the Griquas this Friday. It’s likely to be a significantly weaker Free State side that runs out at Toyota Stadium, however, as Franco Smith will look to rest a plethora of his stalwarts with a home semi-final already assured.
The Griquas have been in decent nick this term and are unlucky to miss out on the semis. They’ll want to finish their 2016 campaign on a high note although they may well have to do it without stalwart Clinton Swart who took a nasty blow to the face during the game against Western Province.
The Griquas haven’t beaten the Cheetahs in their last eight attempts with their narrowest losing margin coming in 2014 where they went down 34-27 out in the Free State.
Verdict: Cheetahs (-21.5) 9/10
It may not be the first stringers but I still reckon this Cheetahs side has enough firepower to clear the -21.5 handicap.