Even though it's only one week into the competition, the first round of the ABSA Currie Cup did deliver some warning signs for the rest of the competition.
Firstly, the Sharks and Cheetahs have set the bar with their performances after trouncing their opponents the Bulls (35-16) and Leopards (40-12) respectively.
But it was the Sharks whose performance that really stood out, especially the ease in which the young players slotted into the team. This win will give them confidence and will make them difficult to stop.
The Griquas also showed they are not a team to be taken lightly as they were impressive in their 26-26 draw against Western Province. I said in my previous article that it is their away form that will determine their campaign, and this is certainly a great start.
Griquas impressed in their defensive effort, holding out wave after wave of attack. WP showed glimpses but will need to improve their finishing dramatically if they are to seriously challenge.
The Pumas were extremely unlucky not to have walked away with a win at Ellis Park as they were denied by a plucky, tired-looking Lions outfit. The Lions will take the win but will need to seriously pick up the pace.
Which brings us to Round 2, and my predictions for this week:
Friday, 22 July
Leopards vs Western Province, 19h00
Western Province will be disappointed with the draw and will be hungry to make up for it. They need to settle as a unit, and this fixture provides the perfect opportunity.
Caution should be taken, however, as the Leopards won't be an easy walk-over on the dry fields of Potchefstroom. WP should still win fairly comfortably by about 17 points.
Pumas vs Sharks, 19h00
The Pumas are never easy opponents on their home soil, and the Sharks won't have it all their own way. After some initial resistance, the Sharks will eventually walk out winners by about 12 points.
Saturday, 23 July
Griquas vs Lions, 15h00
Kimberley is the last place you want to visit if your side is under pressure and in need of a good performance, as Griquas usually make life very comfortable for visiting teams.
Expect this to continue with the Griquas walking out winners of a high-scoring encounter by 10 points.
Blue Bulls vs Cheetahs, 17h00
The Cheetahs have a good record at Loftus in recent years, winning this corresponding fixture last year. This will most likely continue as the Cheetahs have a more settled combination.
That being said, the Blue Bulls often like to strike back after a defeat. Cheetahs will win a close match by eight points.