Time for Tank Lanning to run the rule over the five matches making up the Rugby 5 bet this week ...
And it is as spicy as you get this weekend. Sure we have two Currie Cup 1st division games to ponder, but they look relatively easy to call (famous last words, of course), but also two Super Rugby semi finals, along with perhaps the cherry on top - the sneaky little Kings vs Lions promotion/relegation match on Friday night!
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 of 1 to 12 points (say 7-3, 10-9, 24-12 etc)
2 = Team A to win by difference of 13 points or more (say 19-6, 20-3, 32-6 etc)
3 = Draw
4 = Team B to win by difference of 1 to 12 points
5 = Team B to win by difference of 13 points or more
So a look at the weekend then...
M 1 - Kings vs Lions
So after all the politicking, and all the discussion as to whether this game would actually take place, here we are. A 2 match series to determine which of the side gets to play Super Rugby next year. It's a truly shambolic situation, but that is not the topic for today! Not too much can be read into the result, but these sides have met before, earlier in the year, when the Lions prevailed 41-31 at Ellis Park. The Lions have also won the Vodacom Cup convincingly, and had good wins over Samoa, WP, the Blue Bulls and the Sharks, and looked impressive. This while the Kings have been gutsy beyond measure in securing their three wins in their inaugural Super Rugby season. Their 88.7% tackle success ratio is the highest in the entire tournament! They are a side that simply does not know how to give up. The key, of course, is not the comparison of the relative success of the Lions with the relative failure (in terms of actual match results) of the Kings, but the comparison of the opponents they have been up against. Will the relative freshness of the Lions make up for not having the intensity that the Kings have endured week in and week out during the tournament? Darron Nell captains the Kings after Andries Strauss broke his hand at practice, and that is a blow to the home side. But there is a fair amount of consistency to the team that has been selected, with many pairings having played together throughout the season. This while Lions coach Johan Ackermann has made the massive call to select Elton Jantjies at flyhalf. Not only has Jantjies not been at his best for the Stormers, but also comes into the side as a relative outsider. It really is a tough game to call.
My Rugby 5 pick: 1
M 2 - Chiefs vs Crusaders
These men from Christchurch sure do understand timing. It is almost phenomenal how often they get it right. Throw in the fact that the Crusaders demolished the Chiefs 43-15 in Christchurch earlier this month, hammered the reds last weekend, and this match seems a foregone conclusion. But ... And there is always a but ... The Waikato based Chiefs did win the earlier conference derby 28-19, and courtesy of their deserved spot on top of the log, they are back at home this weekend. Kiwi commentator Scotty Stevenson, tweeted the following stats: "15/17 SuperRugby titles won by 1st or 2nd best attack during the regular season. 12/17 by 1st. 1st in 2013 = Chiefs" ... And he is right about the Chiefs. They lead the tournament in terms of tries scored (50), average points scored per game (28.6), and clean breaks (148). However, on 48 tries scored this year and an average of 28.5 points scored per game, second only to the Chiefs, come the men in black and red. With Superstars Israel Dagg, Kieren Read and Dan Carter in the run on XV, and rugby union legend Richie McCaw on the bench, this probably negates the home ground advantage the Chiefs will enjoy, so it comes down to the two best attacking sides in the tournament going head to head. I am backing the visitors, but would not put my kid's piggy bank on it, let alone the house.
My Rugby 5 pick: 4
M 3 - Griffons vs Leopards
In Welkom, the Griffons will be under immense pressure to register their first win following a disappointing start to the season. They have placed the hopes of a change of their fortunes in the hands of the same players who suffered a last-minute 22-20 defeat against Border last week, with the only change to the starting team being at hooker where Derick van Heerden replaces in the injured Elandré Huggett. The Northern Free Staters will, however, be up against it as the Leopards will be determined to bounce back from their first defeat of the season (35-27) to the log leading Pumas. Star Leopards flyhalf Adriaan Engelbrecht, who is currently in second place on the top point-scorer's list, is expected to play a key role in the match, making him one of the many that the home side will have to keep quiet if they are to sneak an upset.
My Rugby 5 pick: 4
M 4 - Pumas vs Eagles
The Pumas did well to take control of top spot on the log with a good win over the Leopards last week, while the Eagles were pipped 35-34 by the Kings in a game clearly not dominated by defence. This could be a goodie, though! Both sides have proven to be among the best attacking teams in the tournament. With the Eagles boasting 18 tries in their first 4 matches and the Pumas 13, the Nelspruit team will be wary of the threat the visitors pose on attack. On the flip side, however, they will look to exploit the Eagles' substandard defence, which has seen them leak 15 tries so far, with an eye on extending their early unbeaten run to five matches. The Eagles, meanwhile, will be wary of points-machine Carl Bezuidenhout's accurate goal kicking, which has been a key feature in his team's early success.
My Rugby 5 pick: 2
M 5 - Bulls vs Brumbies
Will the Bulls scrum hold? That is the key question. Frans Ludeke has taken out some insurance by putting two props on the bench - which has 5 forwards on it, so he knows this to be a key part of the game, and is no doubt very aware of his side's frailty in this department. Hold out up front, and the half back combination of Francois Hougaard and Morne Steyn will do everything in their power to play the game in the Brumbies half, hoping to use the Steyn boot to punish any mistakes from the likes of George Smith and company. Jake White says he is well aware that his side is the most penalised in the competition, but unlike Bok coach Heyneke Meyer, he says it is well worth it given the quality of the ball you get to work with via a turnover at the breakdown. Hence the battle between Smith and Deon Stegmann being another key decider in a game that will not come close to being pretty. The Brumbies have not won at Loftus since 2006, and since then it has been 28 -17 (2008), 50 - 32 (2010) and 36 -34 (2012) to the home side. The Brumbies do have the minor satisfaction of knowing, however, that they won the latest encounter 23-20 at Canberra Stadium in March. It was a real nail-biter, though, won via a Christian Lealiifano 45-metre penalty after the siren. Neither side is in great form (the Bulls having been crushed by the Stormers, and the Brumbies squeezing past the Cheetahs), and with the Brumbies playing the same territorial game the Bulls do, the primary phases will be important. In terms of lineout success, the Bulls are at 89.5% (best in the tournament), and the Brumbies at 87.1% (6th best). In terms of scrum success, the Bulls are 2nd worst in the tournament at 85%, while the Brumbies are 2nd best at 92%. See what I mean about the scrum being key! I say Fortress Loftus will play her part.
My Rugby 5 pick: 1