Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Match Preview: SMU vs NUS

The second game of the Tri-Universities Rugby Championships will be contested between NUS and SMU. The match, to be held at the NUS Field, will kick off this Saturday at 1630hrs. SMU is looking to build on their victory in the first game last weekend whilst NUS will definitely plan to start their campaign on the right note. The venue will be no stranger to the SMU team, who won the inaugural NUS 7s back in 2006.

Local rugby pundits are divided over who will come out tops this weekend. Many point to SMU’s two SEA Games players (DMC and Desmond Wee) and NUS’s A’srie as to why the game might be tipped in each team’s balance.

“Nothing beats experience. In the midst of battle, in the eye of the storm, the cooler heads will be on the experienced players. DMC and Desmond have played in front of huge partisan overseas crowds numerous times. They won’t be fazed when the going gets tough on Saturday. SMU to win!” commented an unnamed pundit.

“In A’srie, NUS has arguably the most talented player of his generation. He can do it all. His ability to turn a game on its head and win matches is second to none. Considering how tight the game could be on Saturday, A’srie may just be the player to secure the game for NUS,” commented another pundit.

When contacted, the captains of both teams were willing to reveal little. The look of worry and determination could be seen in the faces of both players.

“It’s a 50-50 game. As much as NUS tries to play it down, they are favourites heading into the match. That though will count for nothing when the whistle blows to signal the kick off. It will be one hell of a match!” said SMU Captain Amos Siow.

“Despite the injuries and the many setbacks which have blighted this team, I believe we now have a team which will definitely put up a fight against SMU. Win or lose, I hope the boys do themselves justice with their performances.” said NUS Captain Shafiq Zulazmi.

Key Match-ups

Valmiki C. Nair vs Daniel Marc Chow

This will be an interesting confrontation at the back of the scrum. Daniel Marc can count on his big match experience whilst Valmiki will look to use his immense rugby brain to outdo each other. With the old adage, ‘forwards win the game’, this is definitely an important contest.
Keith Oh vs Lionel Poh

We all know what The Robber can do. Keith looks to be an unknown quality at this point. Making more headlines for his hair than his rugby, Keith will look to prove that he can mix it up with the best in this battle at the rucks. Considering The Robber is the heir apparent to the Singapore No. 7 jersey, he should have the edge in this encounter.

A’srie vs Desmond Wee

Both were nurtured in the ACS rugby stable and formed a legendary pairing during their secondary and junior college playing career. Of the various match-ups, this definitely is the most intriguing one. Anything can happen. On their good days, the magic that these two conjure is unfathomable.

A member of the rugby community however has a different view of what could be the key ingredient to win.

“The more significant players on both teams will cancel each other out. So don’t bother looking to these players to win the games for their teams. It is how the supporting players perform that will be important. These are the boys who will need to raise their game. It’s a good opportunity for him to stand up, be counted and make a name for himself.”

Despite all that, the underlying tension and discomfort both teams have towards this Saturday’s fixture is due to the close bonds that exist between players from both teams. These boys will have to go home after supper together on Friday night knowing they’d have to face one another the next day. You can see in the eyes of the boys. Not the most comfortable of scenarios. This is on top of the immense mutual respect evident amongst both sets of players.

There you go. Two teams so closely matched that even the most accurate of rugby soothsayers can’t predict what could happen come Saturday. One thing’s for sure, it will be one to remember.
This post was specially brought to you by NUS's Shafiq Zulazmi.

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