Sunday, January 29, 2023

Hogs and Rhinos poised for rugby league final rematch

Botswana’s rugby giants, the Gaborone Hogs and University of Botswana (UB) Rhinos, look set for a classical encounter this coming weekend to determine who will be crowned the 2011 season Shield Rugby champions. The clash of the two rugby giants has always been the highlight of the local rugby season and this season looks no different.

Both the two teams have had a very fantastic season and will be looking to cap it off brilliantly with a championship trophy. The weekend encounter between the two rugby giants will be a rematch of last year’s final which the Rhinos narrowly lost to the Hogs.

In their march to this year’s finals, the Hogs have had a perfect season, having not lost a game while the Rhinos registered a single loss, which was to the Rhinos. While the Hogs have dominated over the Rhinos in their past encounters, history will count for nothing when the two giants clash this weekend.

Both teams have quality players in abundance, a fact which is more pronounced when looking at the fact that the two teams make at least 71 percent of the national team players.

While the Hogs will go in the game with a psychological advantage over the Rhinos due to having not lost to them in their recent games, the latter will take consolation in the fact that Rhinos have not kicked ball in the past three to four weeks.

Rhinos were in action this past weekend when they thrashed Sharks 50 ÔÇô 3 in their semi-final encounter while the Hogs kicked their heels in the sidelines after their proposed opponents, BDF Cheetahs, failed to pitch up. “We are expecting a very tight game and either of the two has a chance and potential to win it. This clash will be very different from our past encounters and we expect a very tight game. Our only concern is that we have not played in a long time and it is very difficult to gauge our current form,” Hogs’ Barend Botha said in an interview.

Botha, however, believes this may not count for much in their encounter, saying whoever dominates at the front will be a step closer to winning the championship.

The Hogs’ man says at the moment, his team has no injury scares and he expects all to be fit by midweek. For his part, Rhinos’ coach Sean Irish said he expects a ‘fairly closely contested and very physical encounter’ when the two sides meet this weekend.

“They (Hogs) have become our Achilles Heel and have always narrowly beaten us in our encounters. They have always edged us out in the scrums but I believe that in the last encounter, we were able to match them well in that department,” Irish said.

The Rhinos mentor, however, says the only area of concern will be the psychological one as the Hogs have always had an edge in this area.

Irish says with no major injuries in his squad, he expects to have his fully fit squad ready for the final showdown with the Rhinos come this weekend.

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