It’s international week in the football world, with continental qualifiers, World Cup qualifiers and friendlies to entertain the football loving planet. Of course, there’s also some Rugby World Cup warm-up matches and domestic leagues in both South Africa and New Zealand resuming this weekend.
Blue Bulls vs Free State Cheetahs
The Blue Bulls will look to continue their fine start to the season when they host the Free State Cheetahs in Pretoria on Friday. The hosts are in red hot form at the moment after winning all four of their previous matches with try-scoring bonus points and they are currently at the top of the standings with the Golden Lions, who also have a full house of points. Despite that huge 57-19 defeat in Bloemfontein in the first round, the Cheetahs will be no pushovers this time round. Although they also lost their second match of the campaign to Western Province in Cape Town, they bounced back in style with back-to-back victories over Griquas in Kimberley and against WP in Bloemfontein last weekend. Keep an eye on full-back Clayton Blommetjies and wings Sergeal Petersen and Raymond Rhule. All three are explosive runners, especially from broken play.
Germany vs Poland (Euro 2018 qualifier)
It has come as a surprise to many that world champions Germany have not had it all their own way in Euro 2016 qualifying. They head into Friday evening’s encounter in Frankfurt trailing their visitors and Group D leaders Poland by one point. Play-time is over for Germany coach Jogi Löw: the big guns have been called out for this one. Most of Germany’s brightest stars are on the roster. The midfield/wing positions are blessed with the usual embarrassment of riches, as Bastian Schweinsteiger, Marco Reus, Toni Kroos, Ilkay Gündogan, André Schürrle, Mesut Özil, and Thomas Müller are all on hand. This is a close one to call, but when the Germans need a positive result, history shows that they tend to get one. We expect the Poles to make it difficult, yet Germany should just edge it.
Southland vs Wellington (ITM Cup rugby)
The Wellington Lions and Southland Stags teams go into Saturday’s clash having met 27 times in ITM Cup rugby with Wellington having now won 21, Southland five and one draw. Overall, they have played each other 94 times since 1896 in first-class matches, Wellington having won 64, Southland 23 and with seven draws. Southland Stags coach Brad Mooar said discarded All Black flyhalf Lima Sopoaga was carrying a slight hamstring injury and would be assessed at the captain’s run before a decision was made as to whether or not he’ll play in Saturday’s match.
England vs Ireland (Rugby World Cup warm-up match)
In a rematch of one of the 6 Nations biggest rivalries, Ireland and England go head to head in their final test match ahead of the World Cup. Neither coach has pulled any punches in the selection, and don’t expect the players to do so either, especially with spots in the 23 available to those who impress. Without the pressure of the 6 Nations Championship on their backs, one hopes this will be a more open affair than the last meeting between these two, a 19-9 kickfest that ended in favor of Ireland.
Mauritania vs South Africa (African Nations Cup qualifier)
South Africa travel to Mauritania this weekend in what is a must win match for both sides as they look to challenge Cameroon for qualification. Mauritania are regarded minnows on the African continent and will be looking to cause an upset against South Africa. Bafana, though, are set to face group favourites Cameroon next, so Bafana know they have to win and looking at the likes of Thulani Serero, Dean Furman, Andile Jali, Sibusiso Vilakazi and Tokelo Rantie not to mention an ever solid defence, Bafana should manage the three points here.
Which game are you most looking forward to? Let us know in the comments section below…