In Round 8 of the ABSA Currie Cup 2010, the Free State Cheetahs beat Western Province by 29 points to 24 at Newlands. Why is this important, you may ask?
If you were a betting man – and I guess a fair few of us are – that is the one result in the entire second round of the Currie Cup that upset a very predictable pattern. That has been THE ONLY GAME of the entire second round where a game between two of the so-called “big five” teams was one by the visiting side. The fact is, while a lot has been said about form and the chances of each of the sides, the reality is the competition has settled into a very familiar pattern and, in reality, everyone is a hell of a lot closer to everyone else than it might seem.
Let’s move onto the next not-so-strange one. Of the 9 big 5 derbies played so far in the second round, only two have seen the loser fail to finish within 7 of the winner, with the Lions’ 18-point win over Province and the Sharks 14-pointer against the Cheetahs standing out. Again, this just serves to reinforce the pattern that no team has really emerged as clear favourites in this round of games and that home-ground advantage is still a differentiator between teams that are otherwise very evenly matched.
So, does this make this weekend’s tenth and final big 5 derby, between Western Province and the Sharks, a mere formality. It should, of course. Western Province should win the game by fewer than 7 points, according to the formula. Or should they? Because the one thing that does stand out amongst all these results is that Province have, far and away, performed worse over the course of the last round against top opposition than any of their rivals. While the Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Cheetahs have all picked up wins against each other, Province have lost to all four of those sides in succession (even though their loss to the Sharks was in round 1).
A quirk in the fixture list, though, has seen Province only play a single game against top opposition at Newlands so far this round – that being the game they lost to the Cheetahs. They will take little consolation from that, though – because they were taught a lesson by the Lions and then quite well beaten by a Bulls side that, on paper, should not have been able to live with them.
So what do you think, then? Do you reckon that a narrow Province victory, in line with the pattern, is a formality? Or does the Cape side’s recent run of patchy form create just enough doubt in the mind to make a flutter on the Sharks this weekend an attractive proposition?Tweet