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Unam, Rehoboth in make-or-break clash

FNB Unam take on FNB Rehoboth in the pick of this weekend’s rugby premier league matches as the battle for the knockout stages hots up.

Both sides are still firmly placed in the race for fourth spot, currently held by FNB Western Suburbs on 29 points, with Unam fifth on 28 and Rehoboth two points behind in sixth place.

With only three rounds remaining before the knockout stages, a win tomorrow will be crucial for both, and Unam coach Russel van Rooi said the hour of reckoning had arrived. 

“We have developed the mindset that each game is a knockout now, so it’s make or break. But we are positive and we believe we can make the semis,” he said. 

After an indifferent start to the league, Unam have upped their game in recent weeks. After two close defeats to FNB Wanderers and Suburbs they finally posted a convincing 38-19 win against Trustco United last week, and Van Rooi believes they have turned a corner.

“We worked on the mindset of the players and improving their synergy and they are now becoming a unit,” he said, adding:

“With Rehoboth you never know what they’ll bring to the table, but we are confident and aiming for a win.”

Unam have been strengthened by the return of Lorenzo Louis from a long injury layoff and Van Rooi said his presence lifted the team. 

“Lorenzo was injured for a long time he was then put on the NRU’s rehabilitation programme and was part of the national squad, but was released after the first camp. It’s always good to have a national player in the team and Lorenzo brings seniority and experience,” he said. 

Louis contributed eight points with the boot in their win against United last week, while experienced centre Camlo Martin, who has not always been available due to work commitments, scored two tries.

Van Rooi was hoping to add more of Unam’s experienced players from the national squad, but most of them were yesterday selected for the Nations Cup tour to Uruguay, although flanker Peter Diergaardt could be available. 

Rehoboth have only won four matches to date, but they held log leaders Wanderers to a draw, while they suffered narrow defeats to Suburbs and United. 

They also won their first round encounter against Unam 46-35 at Rehoboth two months ago and are coming off a win after beating Falcons 44-25 last weekend. 

Their coach Gerald Loubser also agreed that it was a do-or-die match for them. 

“The attendance has been good at training and the spirit is good. We are in a positive mindset and it’s make or break for the semifinals,” he said, but added that their first round win against Unam would count for nothing. 

“Unam are a much stronger team now than when we beat them, and they will want to take revenge for that defeat, so we will have to dig deep to win the game,” he said. 

“I’m convinced that the winner between us will make the semis, because Suburbs have some difficult games in store and I think they will drop points,” he added.

Suburbs, meanwhile, travel to Rehoboth for a tricky encounter against Falcons. Suburbs won their first round match 44-26 at Suburbs Park, but Falcons will be tough on their home turf where they held United to a 40-40 draw. 

Second-placed FNB Kudus host FNB Grootfontein at Walvis Bay and will be the strong favourites, especially after their impressive 31-20 win away to Suburbs last weekend, while Grootfontein were thrashed 83-5 by Wanderers.