Currie Cup: Round 6 Preview

Our rugby scribe takes a look at round 6 of the 2016 Currie Cup starting on Thursday 8 September.

And the upsets just keep on coming in this year’s Currie Cup. Last week we saw three of the favourites go down with Boland beating the Pumas, the Bulls outmuscling the Lions, and Western Province getting one over their coastal rivals at Newlands.

We may well be in for a few more shock results this week, with an out of sorts Lions side hosting Western Province and the Cheetahs making the trip down to Durban for a date with the Sharks.

Griquas v Boland Cavaliers | Thursday 8 September | Griqua Park | 19:00

To Win (80 Mins)
Griquas 1/16 | Draw 33/1 | Boland 7/1
Griquas (-21.5) 9/10 | Boland (+21.5) 9/10
We kick start round 6 action with a clash between two of the promoted sides at Griqua Park. The hosts come into this one off the back of a 47-24 demolition job of the EP Kings. Sadly, though, the Griquas were unable to clear the -36.5 handicap with a late 14 point swing – the Griquas were camped in the Kings twenty-two for the majority of the final 20 minutes and looked likely to add another seven points to their score until the Kings turned the ball over and eventually dotted down just before the final hooter – spoiling the tip.

Boland also managed a victory last week but had it not been for an early red card to Pumas centre, Tyler Fisher, the Cavaliers may have been staring down the barrel of their fourth defeat of the season.

The two sides met during the Currie Cup Qualifying tournament, with Griquas running out 30-14 victors at the Boland Stadium.

Verdict: Griquas (-21.5) 9/10
They were too good for Boland in the qualifiers and they’ll be too good for Boland in the Currie Cup proper. The handicap is on the high side of things but I still fancy the Griquas to clear it.  

Lions v Western Province | Friday 9 September | Emirates Airline Park | 19:00

To Win (80 Mins)
Lions 2/9 | Draw 25/1 | Western Province 3/1
Lions (-9.5) 9/10 | Western Province (+9.5) 9/10
The defending champions suffered their second defeat of the season last time out going down to the Bulls 31-17 at Loftus Versveld. The result has left the Lions languishing in fifth spot on the log; two points off the fourth placed Griquas, who are likely to claim a full five-point haul from their fixture against Boland.

While the Lions have dropped off in recent weeks, Western Province have finally kicked into gear. The men from the Western Cape managed to claim their second successive victory last weekend, beating the Sharks 34-27 at Newlands. The result saw the ‘blue and white hoops’ move into sixth spot on the log with 12 points to their name. Both teams will be desperate to get a win this Friday, so as to advance their claims for a home semi-final berth.

In terms of team news, Western Province will be without hooker Scarra Ntubeni, who ruptured his Achilles tendon against the Sharks and is set to be sidelined for up to nine months, while centre Huw Jones is out with a hamstring strain. Another ‘Province man who won’t turn out at Emirates Airline Park is Sikhumbuzo Notshe, who is still struggling to overcome an ankle sprain. While the loss of Notshe is a bit of a blow for ‘Province, it will be offset somewhat by the returns of Nizaam Carr and Rynhardt Elstadt. Both loosies returned to training this week and should be fit enough to take the field. Carr is likely to slot into Notshe’s vacated number eight berth.

The Lions have a few injuries of their own with winger Courtnall Skosan ruled out with a groin injury and lock Martin Muller failing a late fitness test. Exciting young winger Selom Gavor comes in for Skosan while JP du Preez will take Muller's place in the second row. Ackerman has also opted to make a few unenforced changes with Jaques Nel coming in at outside centre and Rohan Janse van Rensburg shifting to inside. There's also a change at flyhalf, with Jaco van der Walt taking over from Marnitz Boshoff.

Verdict: Lions 2/9
They seemed rather jittery at Loftus last week, with a plethora of handling errors seeing promising try scoring opportunities go a begging. The Lions should be a lot more assured on their home patch and I reckon they’ll return to form this Friday.

Sharks v Free State Cheetahs | Saturday 10 September | GrowthPoint Kings Park | 17:00

To Win (80 Mins)
Sharks 9/20 | Draw 22/1 | Cheetahs 7/4
Sharks (-5.5) 9/10 | Cheetahs (+5.5) 9/10
The pick of this week’s action sees the table-topping Sharks take on the Free State Cheetahs down in Durban this Saturday. The hosts will be looking to bounce back from their defeat to the Western Province while the visitors will be looking to maintain their unbeaten run in the tournament.

I was quite surprised to see such an inept second half display from the Natalians last week. They looked devoid of ideas on attack and young fly-half Inni Radebe’s inexperience was severely exposed. The youngster will have to put his poor second half showing behind him as the Sharks are welcoming a Cheetahs squad who are playing some fantastic attacking rugby and feature a centre pairing that loves nothing more than running at opposition fly-halves channel’s.

The Cheetahs put in a decent showing against the Kings last week, although, there were a few worrying aspects for coach Franco Smith especially his side’s slow start to the game. When they did find their rhythm, though, the Cheetahs looked fantastic with ball in hand – running in some scintillating long-range tries.

The Sharks received a massive boost this week with lock Stephan Lewies returning to training. The once-capped Springbok is likely to slot straight back into the starting XV. On the Cheetahs side of things, it seems that skipper Francois Venter may make a return to the fold, although, it may be from the bench with young gun Nico Lee producing some stellar performances during Venter’s absence.

Verdict: Cheetahs (+5.5) 9/10
The last three games between the sides have seen two draws and a three-point victory for the Sharks, which makes the Cheetahs on the plus a rather tantalizing prospect. I will also be laying 10 Rand on the draw – I really don’t want to be the bloke who didn’t get on the draw if history once again decides to repeat itself.

Pumas v Blue Bulls | Saturday 10 September | Mbombela Stadium | 19:00

To Win (80 Mins)
Pumas 5/1 | Draw 28/1 | Bulls 1/8
Pumas (+14.5) 9/10 | Bulls (14.5) 9/10
The final round 6 fixture sees the Bulls take on the Pumas at Mbombela Stadium. This should be quite a routine win for the men from Pretoria considering the Pumas have been routinely dispatched by all of the big guns and currently boast a negative points differential of -74, while the Bulls have finally found some form.

The Bulls were brilliant against the Lions last week with pivot Tian Schoeman putting in a near-flawless kicking display. The blonde haired points machine is likely to extend his lead at the top of this season’s points scoring charts this coming Saturday.

Verdict: Bulls (-14.5) 9/10
I’ve kept this one short and sweet as there’s no real point in going into team news and statistical analysis, with the huge gulf in quality between the two sides. Get on the Bulls to clear the handicap when it comes out.

Written by Darry Worthington for!

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