The Currie Cup semifinals are here and after a crazy series of Round 14 games that included a 13-13 draw between the Pumas and Griquas and a Western Province upset of the Sharks we have out four contenders.
Here is a look ahead to the two semifinal contests and the BetXchange odds:
Blue Bulls VS Western Province – Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria
Western Province may have backed into the semifinals ahead of the Pumas thanks to a bonus-point win over the Sharks in Durban but now they are here they want to make some noise. It was a late try from replacement prop JJ Kotze that gave WP the extra point they needed, but the play of two-try man Dan du Plessis in the centers will give their fans hope that can trouble a Blue Bulls side that has swept all before them to this point in the campaign.
Western Province will be boosted by the return of Springbok hooker Scarra Ntubeni who has recovered from injury in time to take his place in the starting XV for this game. He is one of two changes that WP will make to their run-on side, with tighthead prop Sazi Sandi also picked as they look to toughen up their front row for the power of the Bulls.
The Bulls have a plethora of options to choose from to start this game – Marcell Coetzee may add to these choices with a possible return – and captain Arno Botha leads a team that is young, hungry, and ready to complete their Currie Cup campaign with a final berth. I like the Bulls to win but WP to push them close. Take the underdogs at +10.5 if you are betting the spread.
Sharks VS Griquas – Jonsson Kings Park, Durban
This is a battle of two teams at very different ends of the playoff experience spectrum. The Sharks always seem like they are in the finals – they were losing finalists against the Bulls earlier this year – while Griquas haven’t won the comp in 51 years and haven’t been in the semifinal stage in long enough for younger fans to have never seen it happen. Both will fancy their chances here, with Griquas having turned the Sharks over in Durban once already this season and the Sharks returning the favor with an away day win in Kimberley.
Griquas look to their cohesion to upend the traditionally stronger teams and the Sharks have done plenty of work on their set-piece – both scrums and lineouts – since the last time the two faced off. The Sharks have been keyed all season by 32-year-old flyhalf Lionel Cronje who is loving his rugby back in South Africa on loan from Japanese outfit Toyota Verbitz. Cronje is playing with a freedom and panache that is infectious, leading the Sharks to wins with attacking play and flair.
If there is going to be a semifinal shock it will be in this game. Griquas know they have an opportunity to do something special here and while I can’t quite pick them straight up I do like them to cover the +8.5 line with BetXchange.