Currie Cup 2015: Round 6 Preview

Written by Darry Worthington for @Hollywoodbets. Follow them both on Twitter and Facebook now!

Round 5 provided rugby fans with some nail biting action with the Sharks vs Pumas and the Bulls vs Cheetahs games going down to the wire. Despite the Cheetahs’ best efforts, they were unable to thwart the rampant Bulls, who maintained their unbeaten record.

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The Lions also kept their undefeated run intact with a bonus point win against the Kings. Johan Ackermann’s side now occupy outright top spot on the log. Whilst Round 5 would have satisfied any rugby addict, Round 6 is set to take rugby junkies to cloud nine. The round kicks off with an intriguing encounter between the Kings and Cheetahs at Nelson Mandela Stadium, while Saturday starts with a coastal derby between the Sharks and Province and is followed by a top of the table showdown at Loftus Versfeld. With Hollywoodbets once again offering up some fantastic odds for punters; this weekend offers an ideal opportunity to make some money.

Eastern Province Kings vs Free State Cheetahs | Friday 11 September | Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium | 19:10

To Win (80mins)
EP Kings  11/4
Draw  28/1
Free State Cheetahs  1/4

EP Kings   (-9.5) 9/10
Free State Cheetahs  (+9.5) 9/10 

Whilst the duo suffered losses last weekend, the manner in which they went down would have encouraged both sets of coaching staff. The Cheetahs managed to snatch a losing bonus point at Loftus, while the Kings put in another solid performance against one of the big boys at home. In terms of team news, the Kings are yet to announce their squad but will definitely be without fullback Hansie Graaff, who copped a one week ban for striking a Lions player. On the Cheetahs side of things, Oupa Mohoje has been handed the captaincy reigns on his return to the starting XV; he will don number seven jersey, with Henco Venter reverting to the bench. In other changes to the pack, Jacques Du Toit and Luan De Bruin come into the front row, while Reniel Hugo comes into the number five role. The sole change to the backs sees Cornal Hendricks come in for Raymond Rhule on the left wing.  This is the first time these sides will meet in the competition this season. Last year’s match at the Nelson Mandela Bay stadium between the pair saw the Cheetahs emerge victorious in a seven-try spectacle.

VERDICT: Free State Cheetahs (-9.5) 9/10
The Cheetahs have looked a more cohesive unit in recent weeks. With their backline now reading from the same script, I expect them to put the Kings to the sword.

Griquas vs Pumas | Saturday 12 August | Griquas Park | 19:10

To Win (80mins)
Griquas  5/4
Draw  25/1
Pumas  13/20

Griquas  (+2.5) 9/10
Pumas  (-2.5) 9/10

While the Griquas put in an impressive display in their 33-15 loss to Province, the Pumas were sensational in their narrow loss to the Sharks. The men from Nelspruit lead for the majority of the encounter only to have a late Joe Pietersen penalty thwart their attempts to pull off a double over the Natalians. While the two sides are yet to meet in Currie Cup action, they did face each other in a Vodacom Cup quarter-final earlier this year. The Pumas won the quarter-final encounter at Griquas Park by fourteen points. Both coaches have been coy with their team selections for the match-up, but we should see very similar looking starting fifteens to the ones that were fielded last weekend.

VERDICT: Griquas 5/4
Whilst the Pumas are the form team; these minnow vs minnow games usually go the way of the home side. I’m tipping the Griquas to finally get the King Kong sized monkey off their backs with a win.

Sharks vs Western Province | Saturday 12 September | Kings Park | 17:05

To Win (80mins)
Sharks  27/20
Draw  28/1
Western Province  11/20

Sharks  (+3.5) 9/10
Western Province  (-3.5) 9/10

Last weekend saw the Sharks pull off an escape routine that Harry Houdini would have been proud of at Kings Park. Province fared better on home soil, beating the Griquas by eighteen points and clinching a bonus point in the process. Both sides have won three out of five games this season and occupy third and fourth spot on the log. Gary Gold has no real injury concerns and is likely to field a very similar looking side to the one that’s taken the field for the past two rounds. I  expect former Paarl schoolboy, Thomas Du Toit, to remain on the loosehead side of the Sharks scrum having failed to impress at tighthead in previous rounds. Gold’s counterpart, Allister Coetzee, will have been sweating on the fitness of stand-in skipper Nizaam Carr. The bearded loosie picked up a hamstring injury in last week’s game. With skipper Juan De Jongh out for a few more weeks, Province can ill-afford to lose another experienced campaigner. The man who could fill in if Carr is to be an absentee is exciting youngster Sikhumbuzo Notshe. The young gun has recently recovered from an ACL injury and will be looking to build on the impressive form he was showing before the injury occurred. Having lost both of their Super Rugby encounters against Province earlier this year, the Sharks will be out for revenge.

VERDICT: Sharks 27/20
While they’ve looked desperately mediocre for the majority of the campaign, the Sharks usually up their game when playing against their coastal rivals. My money is on the Sharks to emerge with the bragging rights from this one.

Blue Bulls vs Golden Lions | Saturday 12 September | Loftus Versfeld | 19:00

To Win (80mins)
Blue Bulls  8/10
Draw  25/1
Golden Lions  1/1

Blue Bulls (-1.5) 9/10
Golden Lions  (+1.5) 9/10

Both sides managed to keep their unbeaten records intact with victories last weekend. The Lions garnered another four-try bonus point in their win over the Kings, while the Bulls managed to win a much tighter affair against the Cheetahs. The Lions’ bonus point victory has seen them take a one-point lead over the Bulls on the Currie Cup log. Both coaches are holding their cards close to their chests and are yet to announce their sides. The Bulls will have their returning Springboks available for selection for the second week in a row. While returning prop Marcel Van der Merwe went straight back into the starting fifteen last week, his international teammate, Jan Serfontein, watched proceedings from the bench. It will be interesting to see if Nollis Marais is willing to break up the impressive centre combination of Odendaal and Swanepoel to accommodate Serfontein this week . The Lions are facing a bit of crisis at number eight. Warren Whitley strained his calf in training last week and is likely to sit this weekend’s game out, while his understudy, Ruaan Lerm, is also out with an injury. The most likely candidate to fill in at the tail of the scrum is Fabian Booysen. Another forward who is likely to miss the encounter is prop Julian Redelinghuys; the big man has been struggling with a chest injury that has seen him sit out of this week’s contact training sessions. The only new backline injury concern for Johan Ackerman is winger Anthony Volmink; the speedster suffered a concussion injury last weekend and will not travel to Loftus.

VERDICT: Golden Lions 1/1
When the final whistle goes at Loftus on Saturday we should be left with only one undefeated side in the competition. I’m backing the Lions to maintain their unblemished record.

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