Time for Tank Lanning to run the rule over the five matches making up the Rugby 5 bet this week...
Back to that glorious mix of international rugby that includes the Boks, and premier division Currie Cup rugby. Well, glorious in terms of what we will get to see between the white lines, but not so glorious in terms of picking winners and scorelines. A good week to dip into the piggy bank and purchase a few extra options perhaps!
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...
M1 - New Zealand vs Argentina
Faced with taking on the number one team in the world, in their backyard, with a fit again Dan Carter, Argentina really are up against it this weekend. Especially given that they conceded seventy points in their last away outing against the Springboks. Their fiery and committed performance against the Boks in Mendoza 2 weeks ago, though, will have given them a great deal of confidence, and it will be that type of gameplan that they will be wanting to use this weekend.
The Pumas were relentless at the breakdown, and didn't allow the Boks to generate the quick ball they were looking for. If it weren't for two late Morne Steyn penalties, the Pumas would have caused one of the great rugby upsets. They welcome back inspirational flanker, Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, and enjoy the return of Leguizemon at number 8, but they will have to do a lot more than they did in Mendoza to upset the Kiwis, who enjoy a 15 out of 16 record against the visitors. There has been just the single draw between the two. The All Blacks pride themselves on the basics and in particular the breakdown; a facet of their game that has helped lay the groundwork for their superior attacking game. Expect a black rampage in Hamilton!
My Rugby 5 pick: 2
M2 - Australia vs South Africa
The Boks record in Brisbane does not make for good reading ... The Boks last played in Brisbane in 2010 and were hammered 30-13. In 2006, the Boks were left scoreless in 49-0 defeat. They went down 29-9 in 2003. The knockout punch is that the Boks haven't won in Brisbane since 1971! And with Zane Kirchner back at fullback, and the more attack minded Willie Le Roux shifted to the wing, together with the return of Bismarck du Plessis and Flip van der Merwe, it does not take a genius to predict the Bok gameplan on Saturday.
Kirchner will play conservatively, whilst remaining solid under any high ball that the likes of Quade Cooper or Will Genia put into the Brisbane skyline. It is back to basics for the Boks who boast a total of 567 Test caps (327 in the backline and 240 in the forwards), while there are a further 122 caps worth of experience on the bench. Jake White would be proud.
They will target what is perceived as a weak Australian tight five and limit the opportunities for the likes of Cooper, James O'Conner and Isreal Folau to get into the game. The Wallabies big talking point is the selection of Quade Cooper, who will be looking to recapture his form of 2011. Crack him, and the Boks have a chance. Fail, and it is going to be a long afternoon. The loss of skipper James Horwill to injury during the week plays right into the Bok gameplan, but given the destination bogey, and the potency the Wallaby backs possess, it looks like the Aussies might knick this one at home.
My Rugby 5 pick: 1
M3 - Griquas vs Golden Lions
The Lions have played some brilliant rugby this year and it seemed to all come together in their 60 point rout of the Bulls two weeks ago. They continue to play with ambition and dedication, as they proved when they bounced back from a fifteen-point deficit to force a draw with Western Province on Saturday.
Elton Jantjies is stepping into form, as he continues to play flat and in the face of the opposition, allowing the ball carrying forwards to gain crucial momentum in the tackle. Griquas on the other hand, were on the wrong end of a Cheetahs rampage on Saturday, but despite this, have showed a great deal of promise in this year's competition. They were unlucky to lose against Western province at home, and gave the table topping Sharks a shock in week 1!
Griquas will be looking to bounce back after last week's loss, and prove to everyone they will remain a competitive outfit for any side throughout the Currie Cup, but will be up against it having lost both Hilton Lobberts (to injury) and Rory Arnold (to suspension). As a small province, a lack of depth is their greatest enemy. Whilst the Lions will look to get reward for their exciting brand of rugby! A tough one to call with the Griquas at home, and given that in this fixture last year, the home side ran away with it 37-21! But to me it is looking Lion like this year.
My Rugby 5 pick: 4
M4 - Bulls vs Free State
The young Bulls continue to struggle in this year's Currie Cup, with just the one win against Griquas in round two. The fact that their loss to the Sharks by 34 points to 18 last week was an improvement on their hammering by the Lions at their Loftus fortress two weeks ago, mjst be a massive worry for coach Pine Pienaar.
This is a frustrating time for the Bulls, but the reality is they are breeding a young side that has very limited experience at this level. The youngsters are showing promise however; the likes of Jurgen Visser continues to shine, and his assist for Odwa Ndungane's try after leaving two Shark defenders in his wake showed that there is no lack of talent in the Bulls outfit.
The Cheetahs have scored a number of brilliant tries this year, most notably against Griquas last week, with Sias Ebersohn and Johan Sadie causing havoc in the centres, using their straightening of the line, agility and offloading skills to complement each other's support play. It'll be more of the same for the Bulls this weekend one feels! However, beware of the wounded Bull! They will be reminding themselves of a 34-30 victory they had against the Cheetahs at Loftus in 2012.
My Rugby 5 pick: 4
M5 - Western Province vs Sharks
A big call from Allister Coetzee to drop one of last week's top players, Nic Groom! But it is back to Newlands after a couple of weeks on the road for Western Province, who will be frustrated at last week's draw against the Lions - having enjoyed such a convincing lead early on. Sure the TMO try played it's part, but replacing Groom also seemed to influence the team and game.
They face a real test against the Sharks, who arrive in the Cape looking to build on their impressive 3 from 4 wins. And also no doubt still smarting from their loss to WP at The Shark Tank in last year's Currie Cup final. The Sharks haven't lost at Newlands in the Currie Cup since 2010 - An impressive record against a side that is renowned for winning at home.
Interesting to see that the Sharks have selected the ultra experienced Butch James to run the show from fly-half, and his battle with Kurt Coleman will go a long way to deciding the match. Do not expect this to be pretty. Brutal up front, and lots of kicking. Province will be desperate for a win as they look to nullify their frustration at being the only unbeaten team in the competition, yet only in third position on the log. This is a tough one to call, and definitely worthy of an extra pick.
My Rugby 5 pick: 1 and 4