Currie Cup: Free State Cheetahs v Blue Bulls Preview



The Free State Cheetahs host the Blue Bulls on Friday the 6th of October, Bloemfontein.



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FS Cheetahs v Blue Bulls
6 October 18h00
Toyota Stadium, Bloemfontein

Amongst a feast of quality Currie Cup showdowns this weekend, Friday night’s encounter in the City of Roses perhaps stands tall. The Cheetahs relinquished second-spot on the overall standings following their 59 – 24 hiding at the hands of the Griquas in Kimberly, and they will be eager to prove their worth against a desperate Bulls side that are without a win in their last three this weekend.

To Win Match
Cheetahs 7/2 | Draw 25/1 | Blue Bulls 1/5
Handicap
Cheetahs 8/10 (+12.5) | Blue Bulls 9/10 (-12.5)

Cheetahs

Rory Duncan has made five-personnel changes going into this one; and who could blame him? He needs to start throwing the kitchen sink at this campaign if his side are to defend their title – indeed, the Free Staters are in serious danger of not qualifying. A loss coupled with a Lions win in Johannesburg would see them drop to fourth, just one-point above the Pumas (should they also win). And with but one game remaining at the conclusion of the weekend (an away fixture at Emirates Airline Park) the Cheetahs can ill-afford a slip-up.

While it was initially rumoured that the franchise may prioritize certain Currie Cup fixtures ahead of the ongoing Guinness Pro14, this doesn’t seem to be the case. With the way the Pro14 side is performing of late (three-wins on the trot), it would seem rather silly to disrupt their momentum in favour of salvaging a few minor domestic encounters.

Following their Kimberly horror-show, the hosts need to put in a big performance over the Bulls to remove any doubt as to their ability to defend their title. That said, it may be hard to bet against a Bulls outfit that may want this one more, and who certainly have the attacking intent to run their counterparts ragged.

Blue Bulls
The Bulls’ playoff hopes now hinge on other results going their way, but that will all come to naught if they cannot find a way to grind out wins themselves. Sitting in sixth-position, John Mitchell’s side will be hoping for a Lions and Pumas loss to go with a win of their own, in a bid to sneak into fourth place; and thus, a qualifying spot. Certainly one aspect of this season’s Currie Cup that cannot be faulted is the excitement factor – semi-final places really do seem to be going down to the wire!

The Bulls will back their much-improved running game to overcome a shaky Cheetahs defence that leaked eight-tries against the lowly Griquas last weekend. Their fast-paced offloading game may be too hot for their hosts to handle, and they could end up racking up a big score in Bloemfontein.

Verdict: Blue Bulls 9/10 (-12.5)
While the game may lack for defensive ingenuity on behalf of both sides, the upshot is that we are in for a try-fest. The Cheetahs may push their visitors close if they play tighter on defence, but I’m still banking on the Bulls to come away with a bonus-point victory.

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