Four teams remain standing in the Namibian Rugby Premier League, with FNB Wanderers taking on FNB Rehoboth and Trustco United taking on FNB Kudus in the semifinals at the Hage Geingob Stadium tomorrow.
The defending champions Wanderers finished the league on top of the log on 60 points after winning 11, drawing two and losing only one match throughout the season. Their opponents tomorrow, Rehoboth, have a far inferior record of seven wins, six defeats and one draw, while they just managed to scrape into the semifinals after a strong finish to their league campaign.
Wanderers comfortably beat Rehoboth 47-13 in their first round encounter on 15 April, but Rehoboth improved considerably over the second round of the league and struck back with a 25-25 draw in their return match at Wanderers on 24 June.
Since then, Rehoboth went on a three-match unbeaten run to force their way into the semis and their coach Gerald Loubser believes that they havebuilt up momentum at the right time.
“We were a bit inconsistent in the first round, when we switched on and off during matches, but we started getting more consistency in recent matches and now we must just try and maintain that momentum against Wanderers,”he said.
“We already started focussing on the semifinal last weekend when our match against Kudus was called off and we had two very good training sessions this week. The guys are highly motivated and very focussed. They never complain, they carry out all my instructions and there is a special feeling amongst our group this year,” he added.
Loubser said they had a few injury niggles, but hoped to be at full strength for tomorrow’s match.
“We have a few injury niggles, but we had a 31-man training squad last week, so we had a good pool of talent to select from. We had to drop a few players from the final squad and it’s never nice to see their disappointment, but they understand and support what’s best for the team.”
Despite playing away in Windhoek, Loubser said it would not be a disadvantage.
“I think Rehoboth have the best supporters you can ask for – they follow the team wherever we go and the Hage Geingob Stadium is nearly like a second home for us, so I think it’s a neutral ground and I don’t think any team will have home ground advantage,” he said.
“I heard there’s a supporters bus going to Windhoek, so we can expect a lot of noise. I think this is our best chance to reach the final in recent years and we must grasp our opportunity,” he added.
Wanderers coach Dirk Human said quite a few players were unavailable due to injury.
“We prepared well this week but quite a few players are unavailable due to injuries, including Obert Nortje; the Holtzhausen brothers, Niel and DJ; Nico Maartens and Johan Zaayman, but I am confident that their replacements are good enough to make the step up,” he said.
“The national team that will go to the Rugby World Cup will only be announced on Monday, so we dont know which of our players will be available. But we are also concerned about our players’ welfare, so we don’t want to risk injury or dash their world cup dreams,” he added.
“I believe we are good enough and have sufficient depth. We have used 58 players throughout the season and we have a very young team, with an average age of 23 so the future for Wanderers rugby is looking very healthy,” he said.
The other semifinal between United and Kudus is very evenly balanced and could go either way.
United finished second on the log on 54 points, after 10 wins, three defeats and one draw, while Kudus finished third on 50 points after nine wins, four defeats and one draw.
United won their first encounter 26-21 in Windhoek on 15 April, while Kudus won the return leg 38-21 at Walvis Bay on 24 June, and a cracking encounter can once again be expected tomorrow.