About [[**LIVE@OFFICAL] Pumas vs Cheetahs LIVE Free Coverage Rugby ON 18 June 2022
The Cell C Sharks travel to Bloemfontein under quite a bit of pressure on Saturday as their Carling Currie Cup hopes lie in the balance and they are in real danger of being hauled in by either the Airlink Pumas or the Windhoek Draught Griquas over the next few weeks.
As the competition starts to move to the business end, the Sharks poor display last weekend against the Pumas has not gone unnoticed and there is a sense of vulnerability that other sides see in their play, especially with the news being dominated this week by incoming signings and their ambitions in the Vodacom United Rugby Championship.
Griquas aren’t in action this weekend but are just four points behind the Sharks with a game in hand. Should things not go to plan for the coastal side in Bloemfontein it could make the run-in very difficult for the Sharks indeed, especially if the Pumas score another win in Nelspruit on Friday night.
The Pumas missed out on the semis by the smallest of margins last season and there is no doubt they will have the motivation and the opportunity of another scalp will spur them on.
With the top spot a fight between the Cheetahs and Bulls, the other three will fight it out for the bottom two playoff spots ahead of an enthralling weekend.
Airlink Pumas v DHL Western Province. Mbombela Stadium, Nelspruit (Kick off:7pm)
A lot has been said in the media this week about Western Province not giving up on the Currie Cup season and a lot of fighting talk from the Cape side after what has been a really disappointing season with their young side. A lot of fringe players for the URC side have been included for the game to give them game time, but the Pumas are still on a high since beating the Sharks as well.
With Tinus de Beer and Eddie Fouche in particular marshalling the backline and a tough group of forwards, the Pumas will be relishing the battle and will want to grab another big scalp to take a massive step towards the playoff rounds.
It’s going to be a tough night for Western Province and as they almost lost there last season, they will know not to underestimate the Pumas side.
Prediction: Pumas to win by seven.
Toyota Cheetahs v Cell C Sharks, Free State Stadium, Bloemfontein (kick off: 2.30pm)
It wasn’t the fact that the Sharks lost to the Pumas last weekend that shocked many people, but it was the manner in which they lost. A disjointed performance that was far from their own standards was something they didn’t expect, and especially at home. Now, heading to Bloemfontein they face the unbeaten Cheetahs and are under significant pressure.
The Ruan Pienaar-Frans Steyn inspired Cheetahs have stuttered of late, but still had enough to overwhelm WP last time out and there is little to expect them to be overawed by a Sharks side that will be desperate and knowing their Currie Cup hopes and aspirations are on the line.
It may be the last throw of the dice for Ettienne Fynn’s side as if they cannot match the Cheetahs across the board, even if they do make it into the playoffs, they will have to probably do it again.
The early kick-off probably plays also into the Cheetahs’ favour and they will start as odds-on favourites.
Prediction:Cheetahs to win by eight
Vodacom Bulls v Sigma Lions, Loftus Versfeld, Pretoria. (Kick off: 5pm)
The Bulls received a tongue lashing after their poor performance in the second half against Griquas last weekend where they had the game won by the halftime break but allowed the visitors to run in five tries in the second half.
While their team hasn’t been named yet, it is likely to feature another mix of URC regulars as they use the match to gear up to the URC playoffs and an away game against the Ospreys next weekend.
Jake White will want to stop his side’s second half woes where their concentration dips and the Lions will see this as an opportunity, even though they have lost games at the end in the last few weeks.
This still ranks as the worst season ever for the Lions as their own muddled selection strategy first saw them play juniors in the competition, then slowly return to bringing in experienc as things went pear-shaped.
They have been a lot better in the past few matches, but it is doubtful if they have the firepower to win at Loftus, especially against a Bulls team that is likely to up the tempo from the start of the match.