Time for Tank Lanning to run the rule over the five matches making up the Rugby 5 bet this week...
A fantastic mix of rugby in this week's five matches, and having seen the impact of the new scrum calls in last week's Currie Cup matches, it might actually come down to which sides handles those best this weekend. Especially in the two Rugby Championship Test matches given that not a single one of these players will have played a competitive match under them before!
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 - Bulls vs Griquas
A battle between the two sides that best came to grips with the new scrum call last week, with Griquas tighthead Lourens Adriaanse manhandling the Sharks, and the Bulls, long belittled for their inability to scrum, turned into scrummaging power houses who made mincemeat of the WP pack at Newlands. Not the best time to lose your first choice tighthead, and while Werner Kruger is a Springbok, he has not scummed well in a long time. The Bulls will miss Frik Kirsten. Expect it to be a physical affair, and given the vast experience the Kimberley team boasts, the Bulls will face a tough test. Griquas will be missing key players in lock Ligtoring Landman and flank Marnus Schoeman due to injury, while the Pretoria team have granted big bustling hooker Willie Wepener permission to take up a contract at the Lions, meaning Callie Visagie gets a start at hooker. The Blue Bulls will be hoping to build on the encouraging form in the second-half that earned them a draw against Western Province last week, while Griquas will be on a high following their win against the Sharks in Durban last week. It will be tight.
M2 - Australia vs New Zealand
What a way to start the Rugby Championship. The third best side in the world, according to the IRB rankings, hosting the best. A new coach for the Aussies, but perhaps more importantly, new fly-half. Matt Toomua will make his debut for Australia (the talented 23-year-old made a particularly brief appearance for Australia in an uncapped midweek clash against the Cardiff Blues in 2009), while Quade Cooper, who many thought might be Ewen Mckenzie's go to man, is on the bench. There are five uncapped players in the matchday 23, with fellow uncapped Brumbies Scott Sio, Scott Fardy, Nic White and Tevita Kuridrani all earning spots on the bench. Interestingly, the other big call from McKenzie is the dropping of loosehead prop Benn Robinson from the squad, instead going for James Slipper. Robinson looks to be purpose built for these new scrum calls. On the other side of the field, one never ever sees a poor All Black side, especially with Richie McCaw donning the white armband. But with Dan Carter out injured and the relative inexperience of locks Sam Whitelock and Luke Romano, the Aussies might fancy an upset. And even at home, it would be an upset. Out of the 146 times these sides have played each other, Australia have lost 99 of them, with the average score being 19-13 to the All Blacks. I would not put money on the upset, though.
M3 - South Africa vs Argentina
Both Samoa and Scotland find themselves above Argentina in the IRB rankings, while Italy are only two places below the tenth placed new boys to the Rugby Championship. So having despatched all three of these sides in the June quadrangular, and finding themselves second only to the All Blacks on the rankings, the Boks should take the game against the Pumas at FNB Stadium on Saturday at a canter. But this game is not played on the IRB rankings website. The Boks have two scrum-halves and a number eight, albeit super talented, who have not played competitive rugby for a very long time, and have a back-up tighthead prop who is a loosehead, even though teams are now allowed full front-rows on the bench in a 23-man squad, and even though said loosehead prop has not cut it at tighthead for his province. This against a side famous for the Bajada scrum that might well flourish again under the new call. In the absence of regular captain Juan Martin Fernández Lobbe, who has not recovered from a calf injury - Felipe Contepomi will captain Argentina in his Rugby Championship debut along with tighthead prop Matías Díaz and flanker Pablo Matera, both of whom played this year's Junior World Championship. Bajada or not though, it is messy on the stats front for the Pumas, having never beaten the Boks in fifteen attempts. They have drawn one game, with the average score being 39-19 to the Boks. Unless it really does go pear shaped for the Boks come scrum time, expect Morne Steyn to play for the corners, Ruan Pienaar to put the ball high into the sky for Bjorn Basson and Bryan Habana to chase, and the industrial Bok defence to strangle the life out of the visitors.
M4 - Leopards vs Boland
My word, but it is tight at the top of the Currie Cup First Division table. Well, below the table topping Pumas that is. The second-placed Leopards went down 50-47 against SWD in Potchefstroom in a decisive result last week, as it allowed the Pumas to extend their lead at the top of the table to ten points, while the trailing teams closed in on the side resulting in a log-jam, with four of the top five teams being separated by only one log point. The Leopards managed to hold onto second-place, but Boland, after their 55-35 win over the Griffons last week, are only one point back with seven rounds of pool matches remaining. It might very well be worth spending the extra few bucks to buy yourself an additional pick in this game. It really is too tight to call!
M5 - Western Province vs Cheetahs
If the weather plays its part, which is looking unlikely at this stage, this game could be entertaining as both teams have the players and skills to play a fantastic brand of running rugby. And unlike in Super Rugby, WP seem more inclined to spin the ball a bit in the Currie Cup. But with wet conditions expected in Cape Town, the teams could find themselves playing a territorial game, which would see the relatively inexperienced pair of Gary van Aswegen and Elgar Watts going head to head. And after losing their comfortable lead against the Bulls last week, the home team will be particularly wary of the Cheetahs' ability to dominate territory and possession, which created headaches for the Lions in the first half last week. On the flip side, the Cheetahs will have their guard up on defence as WP created several try-scoring chances last week, but battled to round many of them off - something they will clearly be looking to improve on this week. Something else that will need some improving is their scrum, which got taken to task by the Bulls last week. Hard-running Springbok hooker Tiaan Liebenberg, known to be a good scrummager, has been named on the bench following a long injury lay-off, and could aid their cause. I see the home side being just that bit more desperate.