Time for Tank Lanning to run the rule over the five matches making up the Rugby 5 bet this week ...
And it's pretty spicy this week given that Super Rugby comes to a head in Hamilton as the Chiefs try and defend their title against the Brumbies, while at the other end of the spectrum, the Lions and Kings battle it out for a place in the tournament at Ellis Park. The match-up of the Currie Cup 1st division will undoubtedly be between Boland and the Valke, but sadly, that is not part of the Rugby 5 mix this week ...
You can find an explanation of how the Rugby5 bet works at the bottom of the page.
So a look at the weekend then...
M 1 - SWD vs Griffons
The level of competition is expected to rise this weekend as the tournament nears the halfway mark and the log-leaders attempt to distance themselves on the log standings. SWD, currently 4th on the log, will be enter their clash against the Griffons at Outeniqua Park as favourites on form, and be keen to form part of that "log-leaders group. However, the visitors, currently 8th and last on the log, boast a renewed confidence following their surprise victory against the Leopards last week. This while the Eagles come off a heavy 60-20 defeat against the Pumas, so we could see a fairly tightly-fought contest. The Eagles will have to be disciplined given that the Griffons flyhalf Louis Strydom's pin-point goal kicking has been one of their main weapons. The Griffons, on the other hand, will have to mark SWD wing Alshaun Bock, in particular, on defence to prevent him from extending his lead as the top try scorer.
My Rugby 5 pick: 2
M 2 - Bulldogs vs Leopards
Expect an arm-wrestle of sorts given that both teams pride themselves on their strong forwards. The Leopards, no doubt embarrassed by their 34 - 28 loss to the Griffons last week, but sill second on the log having earned 3 bonus points for 4 tries in their first 5 matches, though, will be keen to put their attacking skills into practice in trying to right the wrongs of last week. At home, the Bulldogs - off a 34-29 loss to the Valke, will have to produce a solid defensive display to shut the Leopards out.
My Rugby 5 pick: 4
M 3 - Valke vs EP
In Brakpan, EP, with their big brothers fighting for Super Rugby survival at Ellis Park, will have to work hard to recover from back-to-back defeats, last week having gone down 30-23 to Boland. The Valke produced a spirited performance to grind out their first victory of the season last week against SWD, and will be keen to build on that. Only 3 points separate these two teams on the log table, though, making this a very tough game to pick. Perhaps worth chipping in an extra few bucks to utilise the double option? Otherwise, go with the home side here ...
My Rugby 5 pick: 1 and 4
M 4 - Chiefs vs Brumbies
After preaching about how it's the side with the best attacking stats that normally brings home the bacon in the key Super Rugby encounters, I did not back my advice, instead going with the Crusaders momentum and form. But in a truly monumental effort, the Chiefs proved that attack stat correct, beating the only side who I believe could have beaten the Chiefs at home. 15 out of 17 Super Rugby titles have been won by the 1st or 2nd best attack during the regular season. 12 out of 17 by the 1st. And the defending champs lead the tournament in terms of tries scored (50), average points scored per game (28.6), and clean breaks (148). This week they again play at home, in front of 25 000 cow bell ringing Chiefs fans. Winning their third title on Saturday will take another mammoth effort from Jake White's Brumbies - their victory at Loftus was only the 7th time in 59 play-offs that a team has won any knock-out encounter on foreign soil. And it has happened once in 17 Finals - when the Crusaders beat the Brumbies in 2000. The Brumbies can definitely score tries though - they are third on the tournament list on 45 tries, but on all the other attack stats like defenders beaten, offloads, and clean breaks, they hover mid table. They do have George Smith though, and his battle with Liam Messam will go a long way to deciding who rules the all important breakdown. And they can scrum. Referee Craig Joubert let tighthead prop Ben Alexander get away with illegal binding while penalising the Bulls last week. If he does the same again in Hamilton, it will be a huge advantage to the visitors. But the Chiefs, unlike the Bulls, are not perceived to have a week scrum, so I see Joubert blowing it a little more fairly. It's too tough a challenge for the Brumbies. Surely?
My Rugby 5 pick: 1
M 5 - Lions vs Kings
The dice are now well and truly loaded against the 2013 Super Rugby newcomers preserving their status for next season, after the Lions left PE last Friday with a 26-19 advantage in the two-leg promotion/relegation scrap. And with the Kings having lost prodigious points-accumulator Demetri Catrakilis to injury, and seen Director of Rugby, Alan Solomons jump ship prior this game being played, the visitors are even more up against it. The SOLD OUT signs have gone up at the 60 000 capacity Ellis Park, so Lions fans, having seemingly heeded the wakeup call that saw them banished from Super Rugby this year, will be baying for PE blood. The Kings, however, have reserved some of their most inspired performances away games, earning a 28-28 draw in Canberra and then pipping the Rebels 30-27 in Melbourne. A status quo keeps the Kings in Super Rugby, so all they need to do is win while denying the Lions a bonus point. As per the rest of the season, then, I do not see this being pretty from the Kings. Only the Force (26) registered fewer tries than the Kings' 27, whilst the Lions will doubtless be encouraged by the fact that the Kings also leaked more tries than anyone else (69). The Lions prevailed 41-31 at Ellis Park earlier in the season, won the Vodacom Cup convincingly, enjoyed good wins over Samoa, WP, Blue Bulls, Sharks and the Kings last weekend. Much like the Brumbies in Hamilton, I think this will be a game too far for the undoubtedly gutsy Kings.
My Rugby 5 pick: 2
Each Rugby 5 bet comprises five matches, which are labelled M1 to M5. In each match the home team is shown as Team A and the other as Team B, and you must predict the results of all five matches using one of the following five result options:
1 = Team A to win by difference