Time for Tank Lanning to run the rule over the five matches making up the Rugby 5 bet this week ...
And while we have no Test match this week, given that all of the top six positions on the Super Rugby log are yet to be confirmed, three of the games included this week are pretty intense. And then we have the Sharks vs Kings and Pumas vs Griffons to lighten the load …
Each Rugby 5 bet comprises five matches, which are labelled M1 to M5. In each match the home team is shown as Team A and the other as Team B, and you must predict the results of all five matches using one of the following five result options:
1 = Team A to win by difference of 1 to 12 points (say 7-3, 10-9, 24-12 etc)
2 = Team A to win by difference of 13 points or more (say 19-6, 20-3, 32-6 etc)
3 = Draw
4 = Team B to win by difference of 1 to 12 points
5 = Team B to win by difference of 13 points or more
So a look at the weekend then...
M1 - Waratahs vs Reds
A similar situation to the Stormers vs Bulls game in that the home side is playing only for pride, while the Reds, like the Bulls, are playing for position in the top 6. Although, unless the Brumbies and Crusaders lose, there is not a lot the Reds can achieve, even if powering to a bonus point win, as the points difference between the Brumbies and Reds is just too big. And having last played Super Rugby before the Lions tour, and lost players to injury, prior form hardly seems a good indicator. A smidgen lottery like then in terms of predicting outcomes. New Wallaby coach, Ewan Mckenzie will obviously be wanting to ease out of Super Rugby on a high, with Quade Cooper perhaps looking to further impress the new boss with a little spring in his step given the demise of Robbie “Toxic environment” Deans. And being the 3rd stingiest side in the tournament in terms of points scored against them (an average of only 18.9 per game), the Waratahs, especially with Isreal Foloau, Adam Ashley-Cooper and Wycliff Palu missing because of injury, might just struggle to score points against the Reds. But it is the Sydney-siders last game in the tournament and they are saying good bye to a loyal servant in Berrick Barnes, who heads to France after this. They are also perhaps the best scrummaging unit in the tournament (although Romain Poite might disagree) and more than solid on the half back front, so I see them sneaking this one against a side who might have one eye on their quarter final next week.
My Rugby5 pick: 1
M2 – Force vs Brumbies
And it is another Aussie derby that we are going to have to sit through given the impact the result could have on the top section of the log. Although, to be fair to the Aussies, the rugby seen from them this year has been streets ahead of what was on offer last year, although less so from the Force and Rebels! If Ewan McKenzie will be looking to leave Super Rugby on a high, the Brumbies’ Jake White will be keen to use this game to remind people that the Wallaby selectors chose the wrong man. And of course, give his team a shot at topping the table should the Bulls and Chiefs slip up. As is to be expected from a side coached by White. The Brumbies are the stingiest side in the tournament in terms of points scored against them (an average of only 18.3 per game), while the Force are the side in the tournament with the worst record in terms of average points score per game – only 16.4! On 23, the home side have also scored the fewest tries in the tournament this year. This to the Brumbies 41. Sure there is scope for a derby upset, but with the likes of Jesse Mogg, Henry Speight, Christian Lealiifano, Joe Tomane, Matt Toomua, and Ben Mowen in the mix, I see too much firepower for the Force to handle.
My Rugby5 pick: 5
M3 - Pumas vs Griffons
In the Currie Cup 1st division, the Pumas and Leopards will look to stretch their unbeaten runs, but for the Griffons, it is all about just getting going, as they are 0 from 2 in 2 starts. Second on the log (on 8 points), plays 6th on the log (on 2 points). Pumas off a good win against Border, while the Griffons got hammered by EP. And at home in Nelspruit, the Pumas will be determined to secure their third successive victory in the tournament, which they should do fairly comfortably having steadily found their form and maintaining some winning momentum in the last two weeks, but will need to start delivering solid 80-minute efforts after slow starts in the last two fixtures. With Tbilisi Cup-winning flyhalf Carl Bezuidenhout dictating play and his boot on song the Pumas are in good hands. The Griffons, meanwhile, have had to turn to their third choice flyhalf Tertius Maarman to control proceedings as Hansie Graaff and Louis Strydom are unavailable.
My Rugby5 pick: 2
M4 – Sharks vs Kings
A completely meaningless game, with neither side in with a shot at the quarterfinals. One might thus expect a Barbarian type game with both sides willing to throw the ball around in a carnival type game where the score does not matter, thus making it tricky to predict. Not so much in Durban this weekend. The Kings are pretty much unable to play that kind of game just yet, and having rested all their stars given the focus in the promotion / relegation matches set to take place against the Lions on the 26th, they will be cannon fodder for the Sharks in Durban. I have seen some odds offering you 16/1 on a Kings win, and 1/19 on a Sharks win! Look, the Sharks have some issues of their own, having lost Butch James to suspension and Pat Lambie to a minor back injury, but it seems they are a team intent on giving their departing coaches, Grant Bashford and Hugh Reece-Edwards, a fitting send off. And while the Kings might hold it off with their tigerish defence for a while, I see a little blood on the Kings Park dance floor.
My Rugby5 pick: 2
M5 - Stormers vs Bulls
And in stark contrast to the meaningless match before hand, this game will be about passion, history, blood, mud and guts as the Stormers, completely out the tournament mix, set out to finish a poor season strongly, and in the process unhinge the Bulls final dash for that incredibly important top spot on the log. It seems a tad ridiculous if taking it in with your “Greater good of South African rugby” hat on, but it will make for some explosive and no doubt, entertaining, viewing. The home side have lost Joe Pietersen, which is big, and as such moved Gio Aplon to fullback and picked Gary van Aswegen at flyhalf ahead of Elton Jantjies, to keep the left / right boot combination. Well, so says coach Allister Coetzee. He might also want someone who can actually tackle against the likes of Dewald and Jacques Potgieter, and Flip van der Merwe! The Stormers are a tough side to score against (having leaked only 18.6 points per game), and the visitors will miss Jan Serfontein on that front, but on the flip side, struggle to score points of their own. Having scored a very respectable 29 points per game via 40 tries, making them a top 5 attacking side, this much talked about Stormers defence will be tested, and with the Bok half back pairing of Jano Vermaak and Morne Steyn back in light blue together, I am not sure the home side will be able to keep the Bulls in check. It would not be that surprising to see the Stormers upset the applecart though!
My Rugby5 pick: 4