Phakisa Pumas vs. Toyota Free State
Venue: Mbombela Stadium, Mbombela
Date: Saturday, August 17, 2019
The Pumas have had the worst competition of any of the seven teams as they head into their sixth and final game of the year. They have to hope to win this game and then hope the Blue Bulls lose their final match next week to avoid a promotion/relegation playoff. The Pumas long win of the season came in Round 4 against the Sharks and they were drubbed 45-14 by Western province last weekend.
The Cheetahs are in the mix for a playoff spot as they sit joint third in the table with Western Province on 12 points from four games. The worry here is that they opened the season on fire, including a 68-14 win over the Griquas in Round 2, but they have fallen off over the last two weeks in losing to the Golden Lions and the Sharks.
The Pumas have the advantage of playing at home here and they are a noticeably better side when playing on their own patch. Luther Obi is back on the wing and he gets to the nod against his old teammates, while there is movement in the back row of the scrum as coach Jimmy Stonehouse looks for more power and drive in his attack. Look for Willie Engelbrecht to make his presence felt from the No. 8 position.
In both of the Cheetahs wins they have been ahead at half-time, while in both defeats they have trailed when heading into the sheds. Expect the team to come out with attacking intent in the first half here, knowing that the key to their successful games has been their quick starts.
Changes have been made after their 27-20 defeat at the hands of the Sharks. The big move is captain Tim Mayer switching out to the left wing with Bok No. 9 Ruan Pienaar getting the start at scum-half. There are also changes in the pack, with Walt Steenkamp, Jacques du Toit, and Schalk van der Merwe all finding their places in the engine room.
This is an intriguing game because both sides need the win for very different reasons. The Cheetahs will be good enough to win this, but the Pumas play people tough at home. With that in mind, the +12.5 handicap line at 0.90 is an interesting bet for the home team with BetXchange.
Xerox Golden Lions vs. Cell C Sharks
Venue: Emirates Airline Park, Johannesburg
Date: Sunday, August 18, 2019
The Golden Lions are locked in a tie for first place with the Griquas as both sides have 15 points from four games. They were the dominant team in the comp as they went undefeated for their first three games, but they lost in surprising fashion last time out against a Bulls side who had shown nothing to that point in Currie Cup play.
The Sharks are the odd team out in the Currie Cup in some respects. With just four games played they are much more likely to get into playoff contention than to drop to the bottom of the log, but they currently sit fifth with 10 points. Wins over the Cheetahs and Western Province while losing to the Pumas say everything you need to know about their lack of consistency.
The Golden Lions have been fielding youth all season long and it would be a shock to see that strategy change at all here. The team will be announcing its lineup as late as possible, with head coach Ivan van Rooyen dealing with a host of players with injury concerns. It seems that Jacobie Adriaanse and Cyle Brink will be declared fit, but players such as Stean Pienaar, Johannes Jonker, and Manni Rass are among the doubts at this point.
The biggest news here is that the Sharks are experimenting with an uncapped fly-half for this game. Boeta Chamberlain will be in the No. 10 jersey after Curwin Bosch went down with a lower back strain. It will be an interesting test for a fly-half who excelled last year at the U-19 level. The other change sees John-Hubert Meyer coming into the front row for Coenie Oosthuizen.
This is a tough one to call. The players that are doubtful for the Golden Lions will likely be replaced by more young, hungry, and athletic players if they aren’t able to make the starting XV. The Sharks have a more settled look about them, and they are a team that still feels that the trophy is in reach, but starting a young fly-half is always going to be a risk.
The lean is to the favourites unless their injury losses just become too serious.