Tough semis battles in storeBy: HELGE SCHUTZ
THE battle for a place in the MTC Rugby Premier League final will be wide open when the country’s top four teams play off in the semifinals at the Hage Geingob National Rugby Stadium tomorrow afternoon.
Defending champions Reho Falcon take on Western Suburbs in the first semifinal at 16h50, while United take on Rehoboth in the second semifinal at 18h30.
When these teams met during the league competition, nothing much separated them, with the winner on each occasion being determined by a single point. On June 2, Rehoboth beat United 26-25 at United’s home ground, and on July 21, Western Suburbs beat Reho Falcon 16-15 at Suburbs Park.
Suburbs had a slow start to the league and by the midway stage were well down the log and not sure of a place among the top four. They however peaked at the right moment, winning four and drawing one of their final five matches to surge to the top of the log at the end of the round robin stage.
Their coach Walter Donn said the fact that they finished on top of the log would have no bearing on the outcome of their match against Falcons.
“The fact that we finished at the top of the log is now already history. It’s going to be a very close call and the team that shows more determination and hunger will take the honours,” he said.
“The three-week delay since our last match is a bit of a challenge, but we are well prepared and the boys are determined and looking forward to a tough encounter,” he added.
On paper, the two sides weigh up evenly with both teams boasting quick backline players and mobile forwards.
Suburbs have a potent backline which includes national players like Justin Nel and Darryl de la Harpe at centre and Godwin Walters at flyhalf. Among the forwards, lock Munee Tjiueza has had a great season, while their loose trio of Victor Giggs, Harold Kasera and Brendon Walters could hold the edge in the hunt for the loose ball.
Falcons will not give their title up easily and have some aces of their own. In the backline fullback Anthony Brand, wing Lloyd van Wyk and centre Attie du Plessis have been in fine form, while they have an experienced pack of forwards which includes the likes of hooker Philippus Isaacks, eighth-man Shaun van Rooi and lock Joseph Losper.
United versus Rehoboth will also be a close call with nothing much separating them.
United were dealt a double blow when star forwards Morné Blom and Winmar Rust both suffered serious knee injuries that put them out for the rest of the season. But they probably have the most depth of all the teams in the Premier League and will once again field a formidable pack of forwards, with players like Callie Swanepoel, Shaun du Preez, Tjiuee Uanivi, Stefan Elstadt, Petrus Human and Morten van Kradenburg in their pack. Among the backs, their aces will include fullback Guillaume Nel, centre Arthur Bouwer and scrumhalf Herman Stroh, who have all put in good performances this season.
Rehoboth will be a tough nut to crack though, as they demonstrated when they thrashed Mariental 88-3 in their final league match on August 4.
They have an exciting backline where fullback Desmond Snyders, wing Chase Diergaardt and flyhalf McGeechan Christians hold the aces, while players like lock Gert de Waal, flanker Huscit Visagie and eighth-man Johan Wohler have shone amongst the forwards.
The Premier League semifinals will be preceded by the First League semifinals, with Walvis Bay 1 playing United II at 13h30 and Rosh Pinah playing Grootfontein at 15h10.