2017-10-16 by Liam Del Carme
Western Province v Golden Lions
Western Province may never know if the Sharks consciously operated below full tilt in Durban last weekend. The visit from the Lions to Newlands however may shed some light on the matter on Saturday.
The Lions beat Western Province at Ellis Park less than two weeks ago but their coach Swys de Bruin has cautioned the Cape side would be ‘a different animal’ this week. The Lions are likely to unleash hooker Malcolm Marx from the start after successfully deploying him off the bench against the Free State Cheetahs. The Lions offer a lot in attack but De Bruin’s young side is going to require all the composure they can muster to break down the Western Province defence. Western Province were pretty ruthless against the Sharks but the Lions pack is going to ask some serious questions of them this weekend.
Sharks v Blue Bulls
Whether last Saturday’s defeat to Western Province was just an aberration will be revealed when the Sharks play the dangerous Blue Bulls. They looked lacklustre once Western Province got a foot hold in the game. That was only the second defeat of their campaign but the Bulls will arrive at King’s Park with timely momentum. Wins over the Cheetahs and the Pumas in recent weeks helped sneak them into the semis and it will not be lost on the Sharks that the visitors are becoming a potent force in attack. The Bulls have averaged 53 points in their last three matches and it is unlikely they will again be limited to the five points they scored in Durban on their last visit. The Sharks are favourites but this could prove a very tricky game for the hosts, especially if the ball isn’t wet as it was last time.
Bordeaux Begles v Newcastle Falcons
Bordeaux are on a hot streak with four wins on the trot. They boast away wins over the less fancied Enisei STM and Oyonnax but it is the home wins over Toulon and Montpellier that have had folks sit up and take notice. They also boast wins over Clermont and Stade Francais this season, all of which doesn’t bode well for the Falcons. The visitors did however show decent form last month in beating Worcester, Sale, Bath and London Irish. Their only blemish came against Saracens, and there is no shame in that. The Falcons are capable of springing a surprise but Bordeaux will difficult to beat on home soil. They may even run away with it.
Saracens v Ospreys
Saracens turned it on in their most recent success away against Northampton. They thumped the hosts 57-13. That came on the back of wins over Wasps, Worcester, Sale and Newcastle. Their only defeat this season has come away against Bath. They will start overwhelming favourites against an Ospreys side that is having a nightmare season. Their only success came against lowly Zebre but their form is glaringly illustrated in the nine defeats they have suffered. Encouragingly they did show lots of fight against Clermont this weekend but they will need a near miracle to topple Saracens at home.
Montpellier v Exeter Chiefs
Montpellier’s powerful side under achieved in recent weeks with defeats to Stade Francais and Leinster. Their form away from home has been poor with just one win on the road but at home the team laden with South Africans have proved near unstoppable. They will however have to be on top of their game if they are going to subdue Exeter. The visitors have suffered two defeats on the road this season and they know Montpellier will have more to offer than Leicester and Gloucester. The Chiefs whose attacking brand of rugby has captured the imagination are unlikely to drift from the script in this one. First though, they will have to front up to the challenge thrown at them by Bismarck du Plessis and Co and it is unlikely that they will.