WEEK 10 PREVIEW
And so it was foretold – when the pressure is on, the cream will rise to the top. Last weekend we called 3 out of 3 in absolutely spectacular fashion! (Kashief, thanks for coming) It only took us 9 weeks to get a 100% call record, but hey, at least we’re persistent! Ladies & Gentlemen – this is it, the final week of round robin action and the deck is stacked as follows; 2 teams assured of home semi-finals and the other 4 teams…. all fighting for a place in the semi-finals! It’s gonna be a bumpy ride – hang on to your teeth!
SHARKS vs GRIQUAS
The table topping coastal outfit are on a roll! Toppling the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein is not an easy task and the match was a see-saw affair highlighting the strengths that both teams possess! For the Sharks, veteran winger Odwa “Steady Eddie” Ndungane picked up 2 tries for his work and is more reliable than a Toyota Cressida! (He probably has more miles than one as well) Paul Jordaan was in the red zone again and collected another try! He really is a trouble maker for opposition defence and whenever he gets the ball you can sense that something is going to happen – he’s more unpredictable than our match predictions! Once again, Captain Keegan Daniel was a tireless loose forward machine and it begs the question – what the hell does he eat for breakfast?! JP Pietersen picked up exactly where he left off – giving headaches to selectors and defenders alike and Sharks fans will be happy about that. So, where does that leave them this weekend then? In a very tricky position. The Sharks will be at home this weekend (and hopefully the rain will stay away) against the Cabbage Patch Kids who are notorious giant killers – albeit, far less effective when playing on foreign soil but definitely not be underestimated. But like lone rangers appearing in the sunset, reinforcements have arrived – Patrick Lambie, Craig “Bosvark” Burden, Marcell Coetzee and Lwazi “Mvroom Vroom” Mvovo! The Sharks have got some serious firepower in the starting XV and sitting on the bench – if the match goes down to the wire, the bench could be the proverbial silver lining for the Sharks.
The Diamond Miners! Everyone loves these guys – except when they’re playing against your team! Rocco “Wheels” Jansen is the man on the move for the men from Kimberley – one look at the stats and you’ll see that he sits 3rd overall for the outside backs in terms of Fantasy points behind Odwa Ndungane & Raymond Rhule – not by much either! (We excluded Nico Scheepers because he has kicking points) And while Rocco is hotstepping around the defense, Leon Karemaker and Marnus “Berserker” Schoeman prefer to go straight through it…. And they do it very well. Griquas won on Saturday by virtue of the fire in the belly of their forward pack who seems to pack on an extra level of steel resolve when they play on their home patch. If they want to drown the Sharks in their own tank then they will need to take that extra level on the road with them. And then some. Francois Brummer cannot afford any misses with the boot because the opportunities will be few and the man with the most work to do on the day is non-other than their grizzly looking fullback – Willie Le Roux. The man with the number 15 jersey on his back has been enterprising for the Cabbage Patch Kids all season but has hardly been consistent – he really is that extra bit more special than the rest of the guys in his team and he needs to show them why.
It’s the Banana Boys vs the Diamond Miners! A bit of irony in that it’s normally Griquas who prove to be the proverbial banana peel (sorry). As with almost all of the matches this season, the team that wins up front tends to win the match and on that basis, you’d have to say Griquas are looking a little thin – especially when it comes to firepower on the bench. The Sharks are largely unchanged in terms of their returning Springboks with the majority of the team staying as is and that is surely a confidence booster for the guys who have been putting in the work all season. The Griquas on the other hand will want that semi-final spot more than a back, crack and sack wax but it’s questionable whether they will be able to go the whole 9 yards 16 yards….SHARKS to roll out on top!
Fantasy Managers Note
The fact that a lot is riding on this match for Griquas means that they will throw the ball around like when you play that game with the flaming firelighter! The Sharks will not shy away either! Let’s just hope it doesn’t rain…..
WESTERN PROVINCE vs FREE STATE CHEETAHS
To sum it up and put it lightly – Western Province is in danger of imploding. In a matter of weeks, they went from playing enterprising rugby to rolling out their highly effective game plan of playing like crap. It isn’t working. What is of serious concern for the Mountain Men is that they have not crossed the chalk in 160 minutes of rugby – they did earn a penalty try but that doesn’t count; it’s like playing hunt the grunt and then telling your mates the next day that you came right with a belter! We’re at a bit of a loss as to dissect what has gone wrong but their general play has become extremely patchy with the focus seemingly have shifted from a team performance to the performance of individuals glory boys. Dimitri Katrakilis could possibly have his mind elsewhere as he is guaranteed to play a season at number 10 for the Watson Rugby Club next year and that is a problem for the home team. The number 10 has been instrumental in getting the backline firing but the playmaker has seen his X-Factor downgrade from a 6L V12 to a 1.1L mommy trolley. Marcel “I Gotz The Ball!” Brache was impressive again last weekend and is a wiry son of a gun who looks as tough to tackle as one of those gypsies from Snatch! Up front, Captain Hero (Deon Fourie) was going berserk once again but maybe he’s becoming guilty of trying to do too much – especially when the home team gets close to the line…. Lastly, let’s give a bit of credit to the man who wore the number 15 jersey last weekend – Joe “Twitter” Pietersen shrugged of any questions about the confrontational nature of his game when he palmed Bulls defenders to the ground like unwanted groupies! But, not to lose focus here – Province have got a lot to accomplish in one weekend and at stake; a place in the semi-finals. Aiding their mission is a barrage of Boks! Tiaan Liebenberg, Eben Etzebeth, Andries Bekker, Duane Vermeulan, Juan De Jongh, Jean De Villiers and last but not least – Flyin Bryan Habana! Holy hell – all of these guys are available for Province this weekend and it’d be a wonder if they don’t all see game time!
The Bloemfontein Blitzers roll into town off the back of an enterprising but ultimately unsuccessful outing against a hungry Sharks outfit and that leaves them one beer short of a six pack in terms of qualifying for the semi-finals. So, like almost every other team this weekend – victory will secure them a place in playoff glory! Super Sarel was good value for his team last weekend and good value for money as a Fantasy player, dotting down for his 4th try of the season! Excluding the kickers – he lies in 3rd place on the leaderboard for the top scoring Fantasy players, he is consistently a Fantasy must have and consistently a thorn 9 inch nail in the side of opposition defence! It doesn’t stop there for the Free State collective – Raymond Rhule was back on the wing and back collecting tries almost as quickly as he’s collecting cheques! Give that man the ball and he’ll give you a show! So where does the work need to be done this weekend? Well, it’s up front again – let’s hope the coach has been throwing meat pies in front of the forwards at training this weekend, they’re going to have a battle on their hands. And to state the obvious – they are bringing the thunder! Wing-to-hooker convert, Adriaan “Hercules” Strauss is back and although he claims to know what a sidestep is, he really doesn’t. Not that it’s a problem – he’s not there to diddle daddle with nancy pants backline panache, he’s there to introduce defenders faces to the turf! And if Province think that they can handle him, then not to worry, he’s bringing the 2011 Backyard Bare Knuckle Boxing Champion to the party as his wingman. Packing down in the front row with the fair haired no nonsense hooker is Coenie Oosthuizen! The Free State barnstormer doesn’t know any other way except forward and between the 2 of them, the battle in the engine room is going to get heated.
Tough one to call, both teams are vying for playoff glory and neither are guaranteed a place. Province have looked terrible in the last 2 weeks and the results show, but if look at the players returning to that team then it suddenly becomes a different picture. The Cheetahs on the other hand have only got 2 Boks to bolster the ranks – will it be enough? Probably not…..PROVINCE to make one last stretch for CC glory!
Fantasy Managers Note
With all teams getting their Boks back, be wise and load your team with guaranteed winners.
GOLDEN LIONS vs BULLS
Ask a Bulls fan what the best thing is to have come out of Joburg and they’ll reply with “the N1!” – ask a Lions fan the same thing about Pretoria and you’ll probably get the same answer! These 2 teams absolutely love to pound the living daylights out of each other and the rest of the country loves to watch it! But this match in particular holds something a little bit more special – the Lions are not playing Super Rugby next year but they will certainly feel better about themselves if the Bulls are not playing Currie Cup rugby! (Well, at least not premier league) To make it all the more interesting, the Lions know that if they take the win tomorrow night, then they will send the Bulls into what could be a daunting encounter with the Watson Rugby Club. But for the Bulls, they know that a win with a bonus point is not negotiable!
The Bulls welcome back Zane Kirchner, Arno Botha, Jacques Potgieter, Flip Van Der Merwe, Juandre Kruger, Francois Hougaard and…… Mr Dependable Morne Steyn. Make no mistake, all of these guys will run out onto the field on Saturday and if you needed any indication as to the game plan for the Bulls then look no further than the split on the bench – 5 forwards and 2 backs. The Bulls have certainly got the grunt and punt tactic tied up but it always comes down to execution and any failure to dominate up front can quickly turn into backpeddling. It’s a little bit tricky to assess what is going to go down when an almost new look XV runs onto the field on Saturday but pressure will be on that dude in the number 10 jersey – Morne Steyn is the darling of Loftus…. but they’re not playing at Loftus. He’ll also have the added pressure that selection is coming up for the overseas tours and he will need to give his best friend (and Springbok coach) ammunition to justify his inclusion in the green and gold. The Lions faithful will know that, so expect a serious ribbing for that man when he steps up to the tee on Saturday. Something of concern for the men in blue is the lack of execution that is happening in their midfield! Sporting more temper tantrums than teenagers at a sweet sixteen (and probably more money than most of us) are non-other than JJ Englebrecht, Francois Venter and Johan Sadie. The cumulative efforts of these 3 “star” players for the season thus far are 2 tries and 1 assist – Super Sarel would consider that a bad day at the office. Sadie has been relegated to the stands this weekend but the other 2 have retained their position and will need to improve on last weekend where they dominated possession like bar space on pigs’ night but executed with the skill of a dish sponge. But, in their favour this weekend is the experience that seasoned pro’s normally bring – lets’ see if it counts.
The Lions gifted their possibility of a home final to the Sharks last weekend but like we said – it’s not easy going to the land of milk and honey paper thorns and witblitz and walking away with a win. The Lions were manhandled like the rest of the Currie Cup heavyweights have been on their visits to the land of the great big hole but if anything, they might have needed the loss to keep the reality in check. Also, the Lions will know that if the Sharks slip up, then they have another shot at securing a home final. Ultimately, they will want Butch “It Wasn’t Me” James to spend the full 80 minutes on the field for a change and if the fans will be expecting him to justify his ludicrous pension package. The Lions will also rest well in the knowledge that the worst haircut in rugby history will be lurking on their bench – Elton Jantjies is back and he will surely be packing his ever reliable boot! Also returning to the fore from Bok duty to face battle this weekend is Lionel “Hot Shoes” Mapoe – but strangely, he’s also playing off the bench. Up front, CJ Van Der Linde is back and he’s likely to mean business but then in another strange move – JC Janse Van Rensburg has been given the weekend off. Oh, wait, something else of a slightly confusing nature, the midfield Tasmanian Devil will not be running onto the park either this weekend – Jaco Taute will be sipping on a slurpy and throwing plastic cups at rowdy fans in the grand stand! It’s almost as if the Lions are comfortable in the knowledge that they will not be playing at home come finals time and almost seem to be saving themselves for playoff rugby. While it is a questionable tactic, don’t expect them to back down – Alwyn “Brick Wall” Hollenbach and Deon Van Rensburg pair up to collaborate on another symphony of exceptional midfield defence! Both of these guys have seen plenty of battles together and they’d like nothing more than to pummel the drama queensthat they will be lining up against. Up front, expect the likes of Derick “I’m Not” Minnie and ex-Shark Michael Rhodes to lay into the Bulls engine room like a couple of crazy Mexicans at a piñata party! But overall, the Lions need to stick to the basics if they want to take the W but will they be able to…
The Bulls seem hungry and the Lions do not. It’s hard to back a Lions win here but they’re sending out all the messages of an office worker during December – nothing is gonna happen! On that note….BULLS to be a part of the promotion / relegation match – from the sidelines!
Fantasy Managers Note
This game has the potential to get ugly and the rugby that will be played is likely to get ugly as well. It’s also a tricky match to call – hedge your bets.