Local rugby giants made light duty of their opponents in the opening stages of the Botswana Rugby Union league as they sought to stamp their claim to the championship very early in the season.
The first games saw all the big clubs posting unflattering scores past their opponents, with Eastern Military Garrison (EMG) Gunners scoring the highest points.
The Selibi Phikwe based club eased past Francistown Tuskers, beating them by 55 ÔÇô 0 in a game held in Francistown.
In Gaborone, it was a baptism of fire for the league’s debutants, White Rhinos as they were battered 29 -0 by defending champions, Gaborone Hogs.
While the White Rhinos lost, their other half, the University of Botswana (UB) Rhinos kick started their league campaign on a positive note. The UB Rhinos, who are the league’s runners up, brushed aside Whales by a 20 ÔÇô 10 margin in Jwaneng to set in motion their ambitions of winning the league for the very first time.
Still in Jwaneng, other league giants, the BDF Cheetahs, barely made it past Ghanzi, beating them by a mere 5 ÔÇô 0 score line. Meanwhile, while expressing their desire to be crowned the league champions at the end of the season, all the big teams say they are expecting a very tough challenge in this year’s rugby league season.
Barend Botha, of Gaborone Hogs, said that his team has no intention of relinquishing their hard fought for title and will fight all the way to retain it.
Though conscious that it is proving a tough task to defend the title, Botha is of the view that the Hogs have what it takes to successfully defend their league title.
“We have kept the core of our league winning side and only added a few new faces. If we can keep this team fit and injury free this season, I believe we can do it,” Botha said.
While saying that all the big three clubs are a threat, the Hogs’ official tipped Ghanzi rugby club as a potential dark horse in the league. For his part, Lesedi Keekae of UB Rhinos said after coming second in the past season, their intention will be to win the league this time around.
“Our aim last season was to make the league finals and we made it. This season, we have set our eyes in winning the title with UB Rhinos and that is what we want most. We also want the White Rhinos to finish fourth,” Keekae said.
The UB Rhinos official also tipped Ghanzi as the league’s dark horses, saying that should they keep the squad they have at the moment, they may spring the biggest surprise this season.
Another team which will be hoping to win the title after years of drought will be the BDF Cheetahs.
Modisa Kadimo said that their intention this season will be to restore the pride and reputation of the team.
Kadimo says while they have lost a couple of players due to promotions and other work commitments, they have also promoted a couple of their talented developmental players to fill the void. While admitting that his team’s Achilles heel has been the inexperience in the coaching department, Kadimo says he expects the team to do better as the coaches now have experience in the league.
“We tried to search for an experienced foreign coach to work with the current staff but they were very expensive. We are, however, currently trying to find ways to develop our technical bench through cooperation with the South African defence Force rugby clubs,” Kadimo said in an interview.
Meanwhile, former champions EMG Gunners says after failing to defend their title in the past season, they intend to regain it from the Hogs. According to EMG team official, Maphephu France, while managing to keep most of their players, they have also added new exciting talent to the team.
He further says they have also kept their title winning Coach, Neal Gouws, as they believe he has a lot to offer the team.
“He took us from obscurity to where we are and continues to develop the team; he is part of this team’s success,” France said.
The EMG Gunners official also said he expects a tough challenge during this year’s rugby league season.