Time for Tank Lanning to run the rule over the five matches making up the Rugby 5 bet this week...
No international rugby this weekend so the South African focus is on pastures closer to home. Three Currie Cup Premier Division games and two First Division games to be exact. The latter seem relatively easy to call (famous last words), but the top flight games might see you shelling out a few extra bucks to buy an alternate option or two to the ones I suggest...
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 - SWD vs Valke
SWD have won 5 of the 9 games they have played and find themselves 3rd in the table, while the Valke have won just 1 of their 9 games and find themselves looking up at the rest of the teams from the bottom rung on the ladder. Both sides are coming off losses though, SWD going down by 5 points to Boland in Wellington, while the Valke went down at home by 11 points to the high riding Leopards. With the victory in the bag, the Leopards let their guard down and the Valke upped the ante, which saw them run in an impressive four tries in 21 minutes to salvage some pride and secure a bonus point. While in Wellington it was all about the boot, with Boland fly-half Eric Zana slotting over three penalties and three conversions in total to the Eagles two penalties and two conversions. In their previous encounter it was SWD who prevailed 38-37 over the Valke in Kempton Park.
My Rugby5 pick: 1
M 2 - Lions vs Western Province
First in the table visits fourth, and WP will take a little heart out of that, but given the Lions 62-23 hammering of the Blue Bulls at Loftus Versfeld last weekend - and the truly incredible tries they have scored this season - it will be against a side brimming with confidence. This while the visitors are off a 1 point win in Kimberley that could so easily have been a reverse had the Griquas embraced any sort of tactical nous. Last week it was all about the now famous Cape defence, but in contrast, this week Western Province coach Allister Coetzee has highlighted ball retention as the key to beating the Lions. The aim, thus being to regain possession from kicks and then hold onto it. And in aiming to achieve that he has brought in Nic Groom and Tiaan Liebenberg. The spotlight will obviously be on Elton Jantjies, who is back in the Lions side and no doubt keen to show his Super Rugby team-mates that he can actually play rugby. Sure the Lions' tails will be up, but this WP side will be aiming to cut down on errors, not give away as much possession as the Bulls did last week, and certainly offer a better defence when the Lions do have a go with ball in hand - which they are extremely good at. Up front the battle between Pat Cilliers and CJ van der Linde will be a fun one to keep an eye on, and as with all the games thus far, go a long way to deciding the match.
My Rugby5 pick: 4
M 3 - Griffons vs Pumas
The Griffons have proven to be a lot more tricky to beat at home this year, but still find themselves having won only 2 games this season, and thus languishing at sixth place. In contrast, their guests in Welkom on Saturday have been absolutely stellar in winning all 9 games that they have played thus far. Last week the Griffons took 60 from EP, while the Pumas dished out 40 against Border. In their last encounter, the Pumas ran out 56-10 victors. This is all about points difference rather than match winner.
My Rugby5 pick: 5
M 4 - Free State vs Griquas
One for the fat boys with flat ears! Expect an almighty tussle up front between the two sides that have arguably best come to terms with the new scrum laws. Both teams off very narrow losses last week, both teams having played three and won only one, and both teams having gone down to WP by just the single point - Griquas at home, and the Cheetahs at Newlands, though. Could a game get any tougher to call? Tweaks up front for the Cheetahs that I believe strengthen their scrum - Trevor Nyakane shifts to his preferred loosehead, while the powerful Rossouw de Klerk gets a rare start at tighthead. And they will be tasked with shifting a Griquas scrum that has dominated all sides thus far, with the powerfully built Ryno Barnes deserved of plenty credit given that the call up of Lourens Adriaanse to the Boks has not stopped their scrum rampage. It will again be an abrasive grudge match between the sides that make up the Cheetahs Super Rugby franchise, with no quarter asked or given. But playing at home, and likely to at least get parity up front, I see the class of the likes of Rob Ebersohn and Johann Sadie shining through.
My Rugby5 pick: 1
M 5 - Sharks vs Bulls
Just imagine the psyche of the Bulls right now. They take 60 from the Lions, see 5 former players (who, at some stage would have not been released to play for the Bulls while playing for the Boks) released by SARU to play for their French clubs, and lose Zane Kirchner and Chiliboy Ralepelle to the Bok squad. This compared to a Sharks side that did well to edge a highly competitive Cheetahs side last week to go second in the standings. A side that welcomes Odwa Ndungane, Cobus Reinach and Craig Burden back, and one that will be playing at home on Saturday. You can never write a side in light blue off though, and it is tremendously exciting to see Handre Pollard in at 10 to replace the injured Tony Jantjies. The man has talent, but he is young and has been messed around recently by being played at 10 and 12 by both Tukkies and the SA U20 side. Waylon Murray will start at outside centre and fit-again Akona Ndungane at wing, ready to face his twin brother. Frik Kirsten is back at tighthead prop and that will tighten things up in a battle between the two packs that have arguably dealt worst with the new scrum call. The Bulls will bounce back, but not high enough to win at the Shark Tank.
My Rugby5 pick: 1