Time for Tank Lanning to run the rule over the five matches making up the Rugby 5 bet this week...
Does it come much bigger than New Zealand vs South Africa at Eden Park? They have been the top two sides in the world for a while now, but one gets the sense that the result is actually in the balance for the first time on Saturday. Throw in the Aussies being properly under the cosh, and a few Currie Cup Premier and First Division games, and we have a wonderful mix of rugby to bet on.
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
A look at the weekend then...
M1 - New Zealand vs South Africa
New Zealand have taken on South Africa a total of 85 times, with the Kiwis taking the honours on 48 occasions, and the Boks on 34, with three draws. This weekend's game comes with a 'cracker alert' as it builds to be one for the ages! Both sides are unbeaten in this year's Rugby Championship and have won convincingly against Australia. Richie McCaw is out injured, and is one of five changes to the home side, while Heyneke Meyer has named an unchanged side for the battle at Eden Park - a ground where the All Blacks have won every game they've played since 1994. In that game the Boks managed a draw. Since 1998, South Africa have only won twice in New Zealand, and will be desperate to turn things around this time. The go to men for the Boks will once again be those huge chunks of meat in the back-row; Willem Alberts, Francois Louw and Duane Vermuelan, who amassed a total 36 tackles between them last week. They will be looking to do something similar, especially on a day on which rain is forecast. This will be a key area for the Boks, especially with Sam Cane stepping in for McCaw and his relative inexperience at Test level. Willie le Roux will also be key out wide, as he looks to continue on from the game deciding 100 metres he ran last week. Ruan Pienaar's boot will again be crucial, and dependent on how the pack go against an eight that will be vastly superior to the powder puff seen in Australia. He kicked twice as much as Morne Steyn against the Wallabies and is definitely the go to man as the Boks search for territory. It is a game plan that is designed for winning, and as Meyer states, he would take the "ugliest win in history". New Zealand in New Zealand is a tough ask though, even for this Bok side, but it might be prudent to take some insurance.
My Rugby5 prediction: 1 and 4
M2 - Australia vs Argentina
Perhaps the less anticipated of the two Rugby Championship games this weekend, but given the collapse in Brisbane last week, this has the potential to be another cracker. Argentina have shown great character in recent weeks, bouncing back after a heavy loss to the Boks in week one, running them very close indeed in the return leg, before travelling to New Zealand, and giving the world champions a real run for their money in their own back yard. The Argentines showed on Saturday that they are real fighters and a number of individuals epitomised exactly that via their defensive heroics. Nicolas Sanchez, the Argentinian fly-half, made seventeen tackles - more than the entire Kiwi front-row put together. Interestingly enough, he was also the only Argentinian to make a line break. They will need plenty of this attitude if they are to beat the Wallabies for the first time since 1997. In the Wallaby camp, Ewen McKenzie will be scratching around for positives. His 'throw the ball to Isreal Folau and see what happens' gameplan did not work out so well for him last week. The dropping of the inspirational Will Genia is a move that has shaken up Australian rugby, and reiterates the problems they face. Losing James Horwill is another blow. But it is week two on the road for the Pumas, and one feels that the Australians will have too much to play for in this encounter, and that their talent out wide will thrive if the forwards manage to gain some sort of parity.
My Rugby5 prediction: 1
M3 - Border vs Valke
Bottom of the table clash. Always tricky to predict and the Valke will be buzzing after upsetting Boland last week. It was just their second win of what has been a poor season, though. They do sport a versatile pack that is quick around the park, which was epitomised by loosehead prop Bruce Muller grabbing a brace of tries last week. The Valke won the previous encounter this year 34-29, and both their fixtures last year. The Bulldogs went down to the Griffons in Welkom last week, but managed a hard fought win against Boland two weeks ago. Dale Sabbagh's conversions were the difference and with the Valke looking like they are hitting some good form, what happens off the kicking tee may well be the difference on Saturday. Much has been made of Border flanker Gareth Krause's captaincy over the past few weeks as he continues to lead from the front. This one could go either way, but the Bulldogs' recent form and home ground advantage nets them my vote.
My Rugby5 prediction: 1
M4 - Griquas vs Sharks
Both sides come into the game this weekend on the back of a loss. The Griquas, after a great deal of promise in beating the Sharks in the opening round, have had little fortune in recent weeks as they find themselves bottom of the table. The Sharks until a week ago were topping the Currie Cup standings but have now dropped down following their fairly comprehensive loss to Western Province last Saturday. Griquas won this fixture last year 22-15, but were on the receiving end of a 42-5 hammering when they visited the Shark Tank. The Sharks have tended to struggle in Kimberley in recent years, but then, so have a number of sides. Lwazi Mvovo is looking like he is hitting top speed once again, and he showed a skilful set of skills to cross the white wash last week against Western province. In the Griquas midfield, former NMMU centre Howard Mnisi looks to be stamping his authority down on the Currie Cup, as he silkily slid through a gap in midfield last week to send Griquas flyer Jean Stemmet into the corner. One gets the feeling that the game will be decided up front though. In game one of the tournament, Griquas scrummed the Sharks into submission. Last week, WP did the same. Fail again up front, and they will fail on the scoreboard. Rory Arnold has won his appeal against his suspension for biting and is back in the Griquas side. This is the home side's game to lose.
My Rugby5 prediction: 1
M5 - Bulls vs Western Province
As if the All Blacks vs the Boks was not good enough for one day. Another classic rivalry to round off the day...Western Province are now top of the table after a well earned win over the Sharks at Newlands - powered by an amazing performance from their scrum. The Bulls, on the other hand, have suffered a bit of a rollercoaster ride this season, but seem to back on track following their comprehensive win over the Cheetahs at Loftus last week. They were good. At home again this weekend, the Bulls will take confidence from their 26-13 win in 2012 and the amazing comeback at Newlands earlier this year to earn themselves a 24-all draw. This after the Bulls went down 42-6 at Newlands last year, a result that will buoy the travellers. Hence it being a classic rivalry. Current form tends to go out the window and it is all about who wants it more on the day. Paul Willemse came of age last week, and the Bulls scrum, bolstered by loosehead Marcel van der Merwe, looked good. They have made the bold call to drop Jacques Engelbrecht back to the bench, but he will no doubt have an impact from there. Wiaan Liebenberg is also starting to find his feet at this level, and it will be interesting to see how he goes against a WP pack that has replaced fetcher Deon Fourie with more of a carrier in Michael Rhodes. Lose the battle up front, and Gio Aplon, Juan de Jongh and Cheslin Kolbe will make merry.
My Rugby5 prediction: 1