2017-08-14 by Liam Del Carme
Western Province v Golden Lions
A storming first half performance against the Blue Bulls helped settle the issue for Western Province at Newlands last week. A second half implosion richly contributed to the Golden Lions' demise against the Sharks at Ellis Park later in the same day. To be fair the Golden Lions were in control of proceedings until hooker Robbie Coetzee was red carded early in the second half. Given what transpired at Newlands in the first half Western Province, when the mood grabs them, look a potent side. Their scrum packed a punch and their backs, especially flyhalf Damian Willemse is giving them a cutting edge. The Lions need to replicate their first half form from last weekend to stand a chance.
Blue Bulls v Free State Cheetahs
The Bulls' first half at Newlands was deeply lamentable but they did show loads of character in the second half. That will be their area of focus this week. When their outside backs were put into space they looked a dangerous side. The Cheetahs came back to earth with a thud when they, a little unexpectedly, crashed to neighbours Griquas in Bloemfontein. They had been unbeaten but they were knocked out of their stride by a Griquas team that has put their poor start behind them. This could go either way but the Blue Bulls must be favourites.
Australia v New Zealand
The Wallabies crashed 42-8 to the All Blacks in Sydney last year. It wasn't just the nature of the defeat that rankled with the Aussies, but it was to set the tone for a miserable season for Michael Cheika's team who made it to the World Cup final the previous year. Cheika is still sweating on the availability of inspirational winger Dane Haylett-Petty. His team will be underdogs but Cheika will hope to tap into some of the successful strategies the British and Irish Lions employed in their drawn series against the All Blacks. For the Wallabies to execute that though is a different matter. The All Blacks should win this with something to spare.
South Africa v Argentina
Both these teams have a point to prove. The Springboks will want to improve on their results in last year's Rugby Championship, while Los Pumas have completely lost the plot since beating the Boks in Salta last year. In the 11 tests since, they've won only two (against Japan and Georgia). The Boks showed encouraging signs in the series against France. Their worst could be behind them but their real test will be in the Rugby Championship. They will continue to be without Warren Whiteley who at best is likely to feature in their last two home tests against the Wallabies and the All Blacks. The Boks should win this one but we live in strange times.
Griquas v Pumas
Griquas have returned to form with two victories inside three days. They looked an out of sort’s team by the time they left Durban the previous week. They are playing with more confidence, if not a bit of swagger, and the manner in which they beat the Cheetahs away from home will only enhance their confidence. The Pumas in midweek last week fell at home to the Cheetahs but they did deliver a stirring second half in that clash. It is unlikely that they will leave Kimberley with a win.