A fierce and scintillating battle is expected when Gaborone Hogs host UB Rhinos in the Shield Rugby Final at the Wharic Park on Saturday.
Both Hogs and Rhinos have had a very good season this year and each of them will be hoping to be crowned the champions when the final whistle blows after 80 minutes of what is expected to be a fierce and very tactical final match.
To get to the final, Hogs’ who have had a good run this season deposed last year’s finalists BDF Cheetahs in the semi-finals while the youthful Rhinos pulled a blinder against defending champions, EMG Gunners of Selibi Phikwe. While finals are known to be a drab affair most of the time, this final has all the ingredients of making it a very entertaining affair.
Both the Hogs and the Rhinos pack a lot of talent in their squads and it will be difficult to predict who will be champion at the end of the regular 80 minutes on Saturday.
However, it is very likely that the team with the greatest discipline and composure will walk away with the championship. Going into the final game, Rhinos will be well aware of the hard task they have ahead if they are to take on the Hogs in their own backyard.
In the wild, Hogs are known to favour getting stuck in the mud and their rugby namesakes in Gaborone are known to be good in the ‘mud’, or scrum as well, something which the Rhinos are well aware of after losing their last hardly contested game to the Hogs in the scrums.
Should the final battle be fought at the front, the Hogs will mostly rely on Hugo Botha to carry them through. The Hogs fly half is one of the most lethal ball kickers in the league and should the final battle be fought at the scrums, Hogs will look up to him to convert any penalty or conversion they acquire.
Another player who the Rhinos will need to keep a close eye on, should he be available after sitting the semi finals out due to injury, is JJ Harris.
Harris is one of the most dangerous players in the league and if he makes the final, Rhinos will have to assign him an around the clock watch to keep tabs on him.
However, the Rhinos will be boosted by the unavailability of yet another Hogs’ influential player, Tyrone Warbotne who is serving a red card. If the Hogs take the game lightly, they will forever remember playing the Rhinos as the youthful side may bury them in an avalanche of points.
The Rhinos, just like their wilderness counterparts, are very dangerous when charging ahead and have a very strong back pack that can score them tries as easily as no team in the league can.
Against Rhinos, Hogs will have to contend with, among others, the speedy Tshoganetso “Shakes” Katse. The 22-year-old utility player can score tries as easily as kids make mud pies and can play both as a fly half and a fullback.
Should he be at fullback where he can use his speed as he likes, the Hogs will have a torrid time trying to stop him. However, concentrating on Shakes alone will be a major undoing for the Hogs as the Rhinos have as many talented players in their squad, among them their fly half maestro, Jerome Malabu, their two pacey wingers Biki Mawela and Tebogo Mosinki, as well as the player they call the “magician”, Tefo Keotshepile.
With 11 players in the national team, Rhinos can boast of having the best players in the league but the Hogs will take pleasure in knowing that the core of the team is battle weary and may get worn out very quickly.
The game kicks off at 4 pm. Before the final game, last year’s finalists, Cheetahs and Gunners, will battle it out for the third position playoffs in the curtain raiser.