Here is a look at three games:
Griquas vs Sharks
Friday, November 13 – Tafel Lager Park, Kimberley
The Griquas will be aware they need to put in a better performance this time out after their 33 shellacking at the hands of the Stormers last weekend. Their story has been similar to that of the Western Force in Super Rugby AU, where they were competitive for the first couple of games before injuries and other issues in team selection have seen back-to-back heavy defeats.
The Sharks have two games left and sit in joint second place alongside the Stormers with 23 points. They need a bonus-point victory here to keep their title chances alive should the Bulls stumble at the last, so expect a big effort and a convincing victory against a Griquas side completely devoid of confidence. They will be without three players from the 23 from last weekend due to a positive Covid-19 test, with captan Henco Venter, No. 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, and prop Michael Kumberai all missing out. Thembelani Boli will start in the back row after impressing from the bench in recent weeks.
Lions vs Pumas
Saturday, November 14 – Emirates Airline Park, Johannesburg
The Lions sit in fifth place on the log with 10 points but it almost seems unfair that they are that low. They have just one win on the season – a 61-31 battering of the Griquas – but their defeats have come by three, six, and five points to the Sharks, Stormers, and Bulls respectively. This is a team that put up points against the very best defenses in the comp and their free-flowing style of rugby should match well with how the Pumas like to play the game.
The Pumas have given some of the bigger unions a scare in Super Rugby Unlocked, despite only having won one game (Griiquas) and sitting in sixth place on the log with five points. Their 42-37 defeat at the hands of the Stormers is a better representation of their attacking intent than the 42-19 defeat by the Sharks last time out and they will be fresh after having their bye week to recover.
Willem Alberts is back in the Lions starting XV with Marvin Orie moved to the bench and we will also see Springbok Ross Cronje starting at No. 9. This is the Lions’ last match of the campaign but given the ability of the Pumas to score it is hard to see them covering the giant 21.5 point spread. Take the Pumas and the points with BetXChange at 0.80.
Stormers vs Cheetahs
Saturday, November 14 – DHL Newlands, Cape Town
The closest looking game of the bunch sees the second-placed Stormers (13 points) take on the fourth-placed Cheetahs (12 points). Both are outside shots at the title with the Bulls playing the Pumas in their final game, something that will be of particular annoyance to Cheetahs fans – the one team this year to beat thew Bulls – given that they will feel they missed out on points when their game against the Lions was called as a draw due to Covid issues.
The Stormers have been conceding too many points – 39 against the Bulls and 37 against the Pumas – but they finally figured out that side of the game in Kimberley last weekend in a 39-6 win. The Stormers have rotated back to their best available after resting some against the Griquas, so the likes of scrum-half Herschel Jantjies, hooker Scarra Ntubeni, and lock Salman Moerat are all back in the starting Xv.
The Cheetahs tend to grind out results as opposed to looking dominant. They beat the Bulls 19-17, but their one loss was 19-13 to the Sharks last weekend in a match where their attack failed to get going. That has to be a worry here. The health of Springbok center Frans Steyn and his groin injury is a major concern for the away side as they head to Newlands. Steyn will be replaced by Chris Smit if he fails a late fitness test.
Keep an eye on the weather as that – plus the Cheetahs’ combination of defending well but attacking poorly – will likely keep the score down. If Steyn is in then I like the Cheetahs to cover the 4.5 spread at 0.90 with BetXChange, but if he isn’t then this might be a game to avoid.