Benetton v Bulls
Saturday 19 June – 18:30
The first (and last) Rainbow Cup final kicks off when the Bulls face off against Benetton Treviso on Saturday. Benetton, who were winless in the regular Pro14 season, present the unlikeliest of foes for the travelling Bulls as they earn the right to contest silverware for the first time in their history.
Coached by Italian national head coach to be, Kieran Crowley, the home outfit will be leaning on sharp-shooter Paolo Garbisi and the firepower of back-rower Braam Steyn to entertain the 1000 strong home supporters in attendance. Jake White’s team will be without Morne Steyn, Trevor Nyakane and Marco van Staden to Springbok duty but should have enough to edge a close encounter on the weekend.
From a betting perspective, one must consider the facts relating to the home side. A home referee with a Northern Hemisphere perspective, an outgoing coach, home supporters and their only chance of winning a tournament. Take the Italians to cover the handicap on their own turf.
Blues v Highlanders
Saturday 19 June – 09:05
If you thought that 2021 had been a strange year – imagine a Super Rugby final without the Crusaders in it. All eyes will be on Eden Park where the Blues aim to break their 16-year trophy drought as they battle for the inaugural Super Rugby Trans Tasman trophy. The Highlanders have been particularly impressive in the season, with comprehensive victories over the Reds and Brumbies booking their spot in the final.
History indicates that home ground is crucial when these two sides meet. The Blues have won their last 14 out of 19 possible fixtures at Eden Park and have gone on to cover the spread in 12 of their last 15 games against the ‘Landers. The Highlanders have been strong against the spread as underdogs in derby fixtures, having beaten the handicap in 7 of their last 8 away games. I expect the Blues to have enough to edge out in the big dance but do not count out this fixture going down to the wire.
Pumas v Lions
Friday 18 June – 19:00
The opening round of the 2021 Currie Cup kicks off when the Pumas host the Lions in Nelspruit. In what promises to be a high scoring affair, the Pumas will be looking to kick off their campaign in style. The Lions are fortunate to not be too affected by the Springboks’ preparations, with the squad largely intact from the Rainbow Cup.
Nelspruit is a challenging fixture to travel to and the ground will complement the attacking styles of both teams. The Pumas have only lost by a margin of more than 8 points once in the last 5 meetings between these sides and I’ll be looking for the home side to catch the Lions off guard.