The Armchair Critic throws his Currie Cup bones
There's no derby in domestic rugby that matches the north-south rivalry between the Blue Bulls and Western Province. This weekend the old foes lock horns again in what's sure to be another epic encounter as the Currie Cup second round gets underway.
Western Province travel to Loftus as log leaders and of course the only unbeaten side in the competition thus far. Their story couldn't be more different to that of their hosts, who surprisingly won their first game of the campaign last week, but still languish near the bottom of the standings.
Province are winning ... not convincingly though, but winning nonetheless ... signs of championship winning side? This weekend they'll be without their captain Deon Fourie who's been ruled out with a rib injury. How much will he be missed? He's a ball forager, and a very good one at that, but I think WP will be okay without him. De Kock Steenkamp will lead the team in Fourie's absence; his first time captaining any senior side. Let's see how that works out.
22-year-old UWC lock Taz Fuzani makes his debut and we're told to expect big things from this very physical powerhouse. UWC director of rugby, Peter de Villiers even claims Fuzani's not lost a single line out as a jumper in the Varsity Shield. Impressive! Fuzani to the rescue ... or is it?
Last week, I predicted that WP would taste defeat for the first time, but boy, was I wrong! This week, I'm sticking to my guns though ... I think WP will fall short. No Fourie and an inexperienced Fuzani on debut at Loftus; I have to back the Bulls to win at home.
Prediction: Bulls 24-18 WP
The Sharks surprisingly lost to Griquas in their opening fixture just more than a month ago, but since then, the Durbanites have improved with each passing week. Last week they were however outclassed by a quality WP effort. One aspect they would've worked extra hard on are their scrums after being demolished by the Province pack.
The Sharks face Griquas again this weekend and they'll be mindful of the fact that anything can happen on the day in Kimberley. Griquas play a very open game which usually results in high scoring encounters. I predict that's exactly what'll happen in this game, but this time the Sharks will exact revenge for their first round defeat and reclaim top spot on the Currie Cup log
Prediction: Griquas 25-29 Sharks
Home ground advantage will count for little in Bloemfontein where the Lions play the Cheetahs. I've said this before and I'll say it again, the Lions are the best attacking side in the Currie Cup and I don't see the Cheetahs stopping them. The Lions play the best second half rugby and often claw their way back. Remember what happened against WP a few weeks ago? That's what champions are made of.
The battle of the tens is going to be interesting. Elgar Watts has looked solid for the Cheetahs, while his opposite number Elton Jantjies has gotten better since his woeful stint in the Cape. He's looking like his old self again, so the two should have a major influence on the game. I think it's going to be tight, but again, the Lions will come from behind and win, with the Cheetahs walking away with a losing bonus point as a consolation prize.
Prediction Cheetahs 19-25 Lions