Where you should put your money on the Currie Cup this weekend, according to MARK KEOHANE.
Things went pretty much to plan last weekend, barring the Cheetahs' loss in Nelspruit. They may have been the first team to come up short against the Pumas, but they won't be the last. This week's matches seem a bit more cut and dried, with the bookmakers taking a similar viewpoint. Only Griquas are given any sort of chance against the out-of-sorts Cheetahs, but even then, it's a slim one.
Western Province vs Blue Bulls
The Bulls were woeful last weekend. Beaten in pretty much every aspect of the game against the Lions, they look a side in decline. A trip to Newlands this weekend for the big north-south derby couldn't have come at a worse time. They'll come up against a Province team growing in confidence.
Allister Coetzee's team ended the Super Rugby season on a high, and brushed aside the Kings in their opening Currie Cup game with a strong second-half showing. The bookies have them 10 points ahead of the Bulls, but I think that's being generous to the visitors from Pretoria.
I can't see the Bulls troubling this Province side on present form. Back the Cape side to win by 13 or more at 25/20 with Betflash (R225 return for every R100 wagered).
Sharks vs Pumas
The Sharks weren't at their best against Griquas, but they'll be there or thereabouts come the end of the season. They always are. A home match against the Pumas provides them with an opportunity to pick up their first bonus points of the season, one which I expect them to seize.
The Pumas proved in their opening match that they'll be a difficult team to beat at home, but I suspect they'll struggle on the road. The bookies have confirmed my suspicions and have installed the Sharks as red-hot favourites.
It's not a question of whether they'll win, but rather a question of by how much. The Pumas have troubled them before at Kings Park, but I'm going with the -14.5 handicap (Sharks to win by 15 or more), available at 8/10 with Betflash.
Golden Lions vs EP Kings
The Kings have been given no chance in Johannesburg. Like the bookies, I reckon they'll be beaten by at least 20 points. The Lions have carried their momentum from Super Rugby into the Currie Cup and look a decent bet for the title.
They're still third favourites at 3/1, behind the Sharks and Western Province, and with the Springboks unable to play for the whole campaign, they look good value for money. The Kings will compete at times this season, but against the Lions on the highveld, this is not one of those times.
I'm going with the Lions on the -19.5 'cap (to win by 20 points or more) which can be found at 9/10.
Free State Cheetahs vs Griquas
Things aren't looking so rosy in the city of roses. Following their catastrophic Super Rugby campaign, the Cheetahs got off to the worst possible start in the Currie Cup. It was a case of poor execution and wasted opportunities against the Pumas, as they lost a game that they really should have won.
Yes they've lost players to the Springboks and overseas, but so has everyone else. Their home match against Griquas this weekend is a must-win, and I expect them to respond accordingly.
They're still a dangerous side when they get their tails up, and I expect them to put at least 10 points between themselves and their neighbours. Back them to cover the -9.5 'cap (win by 10 points or more) at 27/20 with Betflash.
Throw all four bets in a multiple and you're looking at odds of 17/1. That's a bet worth taking.
Photo: Michael Sheehan/Gallo Images