Happy New Year to all and let’s get in some Currie Cup rugby at the start of 2021.
Here is a look at the three matches on tap this weekend:
Pumas vs. Lions
Saturday, January 2 – Mbombela Stadium, Mbombela
This is an interesting spot for the Lions to be in. They know they face the Bulls – who are off this weekend – in four days so it would have been very easy to send a second-string side out to the Lowveld. Instead, there are just minor tweaks to the starting lineup for the third-placed Lions and with the top of the table changing on a weekly basis, it makes sense that coach Ivan van Rooyen sticks with his strongest squad to avoid what would be a stunning slip up here.
The biggest change sees 32-year-old prop Wiehahn Herbst starting for the first time in the Currie Cup this season. He replaces Jannie du Plessis who drops out of the 23. Other changes include the additions of Marnus Schoeman, Manuel Rass, and Carlu Sadie to the bench.
Outside of a 45-10 battering at the hands of the Sharks is Round 1, the Pumas have been within 14 points in every Currie Cup game. I like them to cover the 16.5 point handicap here at 0.90 with BetXChange.
Cheetahs vs. Western Province
Saturday, January 2 – Bloemfontein
The fifth-placed Cheetahs host second-placed Western Province on Saturday in a key game to the playoff hopes of both teams. The Bulls still have the inside track to finishing top of the log, but any of the four sides from second through fifth – the Lions and Sharks in addition to these two – will think they can finish second while still be looking over their shoulders and worrying about falling out of the semifinals completely.
Western Province will be without Springbok captain Siya Kolisi as he is in the Coronavirus protocol and his place will be taken by hard-working flanker Jaco Coetzee. Other changes to the side include David Meihuizen back into the starting XV at lock ahead of Chris van Zyl who drops to the bench. The Cheetahs stunned the Sharks with a 37-10 home win last time out and they will be hoping that form carries them past another team loaded with Springboks. I like the Cheetahs to win as a home underdog here.
Sharks vs Griquas
Saturday, January 2 – Jonsson Kings Park, Durban
The Sharks need to bounce back from that disastrous defeat last weekend and a home match against Griquas gives them just the platform to do so. The Durban side will have to be much calmer than they were last week when they let scoreboard pressure take over their game, causing mistakes and issues that led to the Cheetahs’ win.
There are six changes to the Sharks team – enough to make the players know that coach Sean Everitt is far from happy without completely losing team chemistry. Covid issues are keeping out the likes of prop Thomas du Toit, centre Marius Louw, and second-row Hyron Andrews. The Sharks were not at the races upfront last week and changes include the additions of hooker Fez Mbatha, prop Michael Kumberai, lock JJ van der Mescht and flanker Themenlani Bholi.
This is a Sharks team with a point to prove and Griquas are in a tough spot here. I like the Sharks to easily cover the 15.5 points spread at 0.95 with BetXChange.