It is time for the final round of Currie Cup play before the semifinals and there is still plenty on the line for most teams in the competition. The big stories leading in are they two spots are still up for grabs – only the Bulls and Sharks are locked in – while DHL Western Province could miss out on the finals altogether.
Here are the games for Round 14 with their BetXchange odds:
Griquas VS Pumas – Tafel Lager Park, Kimberley
Two underdogs having outstanding Currie Cup campaigns meet in Kimberley knowing that the winner will advance to the semifinals while the loser will face an agonizing wait until the end of the Sharks vs Western Province game to find out their post-season fate. Griquas sit third (33 points) and Pumas fourth (32 points) heading into the weekend, but the fifth-placed WP squad (30 points) is within striking distance of both.
Both won last time out to set up this game. Griquas are unchanged from the team that beat Western Province last time out, relying on that same side to be able to perform in back-to-back weeks with finals rugby on the line. Look for the play of Griquas loose forwards – especially Ruan Steenkamp – to be key here.
Pumas have been impressive this season in the pack and they have selected two poaching experts in Daniel Maartens and Niel Otto in their back row. Eddie Fouche will play an important role at No. 10, as will Ali Ngijima who plays at inside-center in place of Matt More. This will be a tight, brutal affair and I like Griquas to defend home turf and pick up a win.
Blue Bulls VS Free State Cheetahs – Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
The game with the least on the line this weekend takes place in Pretoria between the log leading Bulls and the sixth-placed Cheetahs. The Bulls know a win will see them claim the No. 1 seed for the playoffs – a draw or defeat could too depending on the Sharks’ outcome against Western Province – while the Cheetahs have three wins and 26 points – six points behind the fourth-placed Pumas. At least they are guaranteed not to finish bottom of the log with the seventh-placed Lions already having completed their games.
Changes for the Cheetahs from the team that lost to the Pumas last time out include Ruan Pienaar slotting back into his more familiar role at scrumhalf after playing flyhalf. This sees Reinhard Fortuin return at No. 10 with other backline changes including recalls for Cohen Jasper at fullback and Evardi Boshoff at outside-center.
The Bulls are starting Marco Jansen van Vuren at No. 9 with Zak Burger rested. David Kriel is back in the run-on side at fullback and Madosh Tambwe is in the starting XV on the wing. Two log points are a must for the Bulls to play out the season at fortress Loftus. They will win comfortably, covering the spread at -17.5 (8/10) with BetXchange against a Cheetahs squad with nothing to play for.
Sharks VS Western Province – Jonsson Kings Park, Durban
The underperforming Western Province knows that it is now win or bust for their semifinal chances. The Sharks – sitting second – will be looking for a bonus-point win and a Bulls failure to leap them at the last minute and secure finals rugby in Durban for the tournament’s duration.
The prediction of rainfall for the match will play into the hands of Western Province – injuries and all – as it will limit what the Sharks are able to do with ball in hand and make it much more of a grind. Both packs will be looking for dominance – questions about the Sharks’ front row will need to be answered early – but based on recent form it is hard to see anything other than a Sharks win – unless they already know the Bulls have locked up top spot and have nothing to play for. Bet this based on the outcome of the Bulls/Cheetahs contest in regards to the -8/5 point spread.