Super Rugby Unlocked is done and dusted and the teams are now into Round 3 of a Currie Cup that features the reserves fixtures from the recently concluded tournament.
Here is a look at the three games on tap this weekend:
Western Province vs. Pumas
Friday, December 11 – DHL Newlands, Cape Town
With the Bulls having run away from the pack on 32 points, this becomes a must-win for a Western Province side that has 21 points and sits in third place on the log. Making the semi-final of the comp – and ideally not finishing in fourth place to face the Bulls – has to be the minimum expectation for this side. They have made seven changes from the team that lost to the Lions last Saturday. Injuries see Seabelo Senatia, Ruhan Nel and Juarno Augustus drop out to be replaced by Tristan Leyds, Michal Haznar, and Jaco Coetzee respectively.
Pumas have also made changes after a confidence-boosting win over Griquas last time out. Former Southern Kings fly-half Tiaan Botes will start alongside Chriswill September in the halves, while fullback JapieKleinhans will join the fray from the bench after being loved up from the SuperSport Rugby Challenge competition. This will be a win for the home side, but the cover number of 23.5 seems high. Take the Pumas and the points with BetXChange if you are laying a bet on this one.
Cheetahs vs. Lions
Saturday, December 12 – Toyota Stadium, Bloemfontein
This is a huge game in the race for a semi-final spot as the fourth-placed Lions (20 points) face the fifth-placed Cheetahs (17 points). It is certainly worth noting that the Cheetahs have played just seven games to the Lions eight, so a win here would set the home team up nicely moving forwards.
There are four changes to the Cheetahs’ side that went down 40-17 to the impressive Bulls last weekend. Malcolm Jaer and William Small-Smith will start on the sings – the former is in for Rosko Specman after he failed a fitness test on Thursday. The other two changes see Aidon Davis start at No. 7 and Jaques du Toit at hooker. The Golden Lions will again look to the lineout prowess of lock Marvin Orie as they attempt to pick up a valuable away win in Bloemfontein.
This is the closest match of the week in betting terms and should be a fun one to watch. Specman being out is a big deal, but the Cheetahs will still have enough at home to win.
Sharks vs. Bulls
Saturday, December 12 – Jonsson Kings Park, Durban
The runaway leaders of the comp travel to Durban on Saturday to face the Sharks in a top of the tackle clash. The excellent halves pairing of Morne Steyn and Ivan van Zyl will be at the heart of everything that the Bulls do well, while Jacques van Rooyen is back in the front row after returning from suspension. There is a Currie Cup starting debut to be handed to winger Marnus Potgieter as part of a back three that also features David Kriel at fullback and Kurt-Lee Arendse on the left wing.
The Sharks – who will be well aware of the drubbing they faced in the reverse fixture as part of Super Rugby Unlocked – welcome back Lukhanyo Am into their starting XV. Winger Sbu Nkosi will also be in the starting lineup, giving the Sharks a pair of Springboks in their backline that are hungry and rested. Other changes include a shift in the back row as Henco Venter and Sikhumuzo Notshe start ahead of Thembelani Bholi and JJ van der Mescht.
The Sharks are more than good enough to beat the Bulls if their pieces are playing well and given the state of the log – specifically the gap the Bulls have created – it can be argued that this one means more to the home side. Add in that Kings Park is always a tough place to play and the stage seems set for a Sharks win at 1.20 with BetXChange.