Having managed to pick 4 out of 4 last week – and what else would you expect from us here at sportblog.co.za? – there’s a strong possibility of me extending the streak to 8 out of 8 come Sunday morning if this weekend’s match-ups are anything to go by. Effectively, the bottom half of the log travels away from home to take on the top half in Saturday’s games, and as a result the current top 4 are presented a chance to further secure their semi-final claims by putting a buffer between themselves and the other 4 teams in the Currie Cup Premier Division.
The only team reasonably capable of an upset this week is probably the hapless Bulls, who find themselves up against the Cheetahs in Bloem, but given their current form I’m not so sure. If the Bulls fail to collect even a bonus point from the Cheetahs this week I would imagine that the last sniff of a chance to contest a semi-final would be gone as well, cueing much soul-searching and introspection from the Bulls camp for the rest of the year, and much wailing, gnashing of teeth and random acts of public violence from their supporters in the streets of Pretoria. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if many kids who were deliriously named “Victor” or “Bakkies” two years ago suddenly find themselves the subject of a flood of name-change applications at the Home Affairs offices come Monday morning.
The Kerrie Beker keeps rolling on in the midst of all the World Cup hype (only 6 days 23 hours 42 minutes and 10 seconds to go, kids!) and this week sees the start of the 2nd half of the competition commence as the Premier Division teams start facing each other again for their return fixtures. With half of the round robin phase of the competition already accounted for, the mad scramble to end in the top 6 on the log begins in earnest as the spectre of possible relegation looms ever larger in the wake of a more streamlined strength versus strength Premier Division format coming in 2012.
At least two teams currently playing in the Premier Division have got to go, and there’s a distinct possibility that a third might find themselves in a promotion-relegation game against the winners of the First Division – that decision still pending from the administrators of first class rugby in South Africa. With this in mind, all the Currie Cup teams will be wanting to finish in at least 5th spot on the log to avoid any relegation issues. In order to do that, away wins and bonus points suddenly become gold, and any away game against a minnow should be targeted by the bigger unions as an opportunity to help secure a top 5 finish. (Sorry for you, Leppids…)
PUMAS vs LIONS (Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit. Friday 7.10pm)
It’s been such a golden run with these Currie Cup previews and picks for the last 3 weeks or so, that I’m almost too scared to pick a winner in some of these games this week, most notably the Saturday games, which I think are going to be close run affairs. I’d just really hate to screw up a good run – 100% in 11 games I think I’m on now, which makes sportblog.co.za at least as accurate as the best bookies out there – but unfortunately my editor doesn’t pay me peanuts to sit my fat ass on the fence; he’s looking for some ballsy commitment from me.
Here we go then…
PUMAS vs WESTERN PROVINCE (Friday, 7pm. Puma Stadium, Witbank)
WP front up this weekend to a Pumas team that haven’t won a game yet this year in the Kerrie Beker and in fact seem to be on a downward spiral after last week’s Prison Sex outing against the Cheetahs, who caned them by a 64-point margin away from home.On the other hand, WP are keeping it together nicely, marshalled well by rookie flyhalf Demetri Catrakilis, and shouldn’t break too much of a sweat to breach a Pumas defence that is leakier than anacid-washed condom.
Province by 10.
The Currie Cup launches into week 6 (already!) with this weekend’s round of games, and it looks as if the cream is starting to rise to the top, so to speak. Unless you’re a Bulls fan, of course.
BULLS vs GRIQUAS (Loftus, Pretoria. Friday 5pm)
The Bulls will be mildly buoyed by the fact that they have managed to stumble their way off the bottom of the log with last week’s win like a zombie desperate for a feed, but also very wary of a Griquas outfit that continues to punch above its weight. (I always think they’re punching above their weight, which is a bit disingenuous – after a couple of seasons of punching above their weight this probably is their weight…)
Hmmm… a prediction is required of this column, and after a 100% sheet last week I’m desperate to maintain my form, but this isn’t an easy pick as with a couple of the other games this week. I still rate the Bulls ability to win ugly when they’re desperate, and combined with the fact that they’re playing at Loftus in front of their rabid bovine fans, I’ll back them.
Bulls by 6.
WESTERN PROVINCE vs LIONS (Newlands, Cape Town, Friday 7pm)
WP are on the back of 2 consecutive losses and will be looking to reverse that trend against a Lions team that has emerged over the past month or so as a serious contender in this year’s Currie Cup in my match of the weekend. (more…)
It is crystal clear that “the powers that be” (read Super Sport and SARU) understand all too well the fanaticism and obsession associated with rugby and how some folks gladly schedule their lives and salaries around it. And inevitably this becomes the fire that fuels the constant search for further innovative ways to gain more out of the public and the players, with little or no regard for the consequences to either. The spectators and viewers might not feel too hard done by presently, but would they be as forgiving should the franchise they support suddenly find itself demoted to a less prestigious competition? Could SARU expect the same support for their new Currie Cup venture from the Bulls should they continue their dreadful run of form and slip into relegation-waters? To put it mildly, it will be cold day in hell!
So that begs the question, could this new format work or will it be amended to suit the needs of the more financially affluent unions? Add to this dilemma, the political pressure to create an opportunity for Cheeky Watson and his EP Kings in the amended Currie Cup and you could have a true melting pot, with genuine riots on hand. (more…)
Fine, fine – I’ll admit it: last week’s Currie Cup picks were basically all wrong meaning either a) it was a weekend of upsets, or b) my picks are rubbish.
I’m going to go with option a) for now, although now that we’re a month into the Kerrie Beker I’m prepared to finally look at the log as some indicator of form. Oh my sweet Jesus, friends and neighbours, are the Bulls really at the bottom?? Below the Leppids?? And the Lions clear on top by 4 points?? What the hell is going on here?
I know the Bulls have a habit of starting most competitions slowly, but they might be pushing their luck a bit here. Keep in mind that they won’t have the luxury of beefing up their starting XV with a collection of returning Springboks as they usually do every year, normally just in time to become a serious headache for any other team in the Currie Cup with playoff aspirations. Also keep in mind that with the new Currie Cup format approved for next year involving only 6 teams in the Premier Division, 2 of the current teams in this year’s competition are going to be dropping down to the First Division. How that decision will be made must still be made clear by the powers-that-be at SARU as I write this, but I would imagine that it should be determined by final log standings come the end of the round robin phase of the Currie Cup on the 15th of October – and currently the Bulls are in that particular hot seat.
Man, I couldn’t have been further off with my predictions last week if I had made them under the influence of a cheap hallucinogenic… My humblest apologies to the Pumas and the Griquas who produced an absolute snorter on Friday night that was nothing like the “vanilla lite –flavoured game I predicted, as well as the Leopards who in the end didn’t take the rocket I expected them to from the Lions, although that result might realistically tell you more about the Lions’ up and down season so far than about the Leopards’ ongoing battle not to get the wooden spoon when all is said and done come the end of the tournament on the 29th of October later this year.
This week’s match ups are not an easy pick at all – if my blog editor had bothered to do his research and checked my success rate on Superbru over the past 2 years he would’ve never given me this gig in the first place – but I’ll do my best. (Just give me a few minutes to go hang my Currie Cup result picking dartboard in the garage, and I’ll be right back with this week’s predictions…)