TEST RUGBY FEATURE MATCH No.1
Kazakhstan v Sri Lanka (WCQ Asia; Asia Nations Division 1
Media release for Sean Moore, Asia RFU
Chance for spot in final Rugby World Cup 2015 Asian qualifier up for grabs at HSBC A5N Division One championship in Colombo
[Colombo, Friday, 5 April]: With the stakes sky-high, Kazakhstan coach and former captain Timur Mashurov is mulling coming out of retirement and donning his boots for Saturday’s HSBC Asian Five Nations (HSBC A5N) Top 5-or-bust encounter against Sri Lanka.
Mashurov, who last captained Kazakhstan in 2011, has been forced into the decision after lock-forward Anton Makarenko was suspended for three weeks for a dangerous tackle on a Chinese Taipei opponent which earned him a red card during Wednesday’s 42-10 victory.
“We only travelled with 24 players and cannot bring anyone in from Almaty in time. As a contingency, I have included myself in the squad and most probably will play at No.8 if required,” said Mashurov underlining the importance Kazakhstan is placing on winning this final game in the HSBC A5N Division One competition.
Kazakhstan not only has to win, but they have to win handsomely by scoring a minimum of four tries, to secure the all-important bonus point, and at the same time they have to prevent Sri Lanka from picking up a bonus point themselves – by either finishing within seven points of Kazakhstan or scoring four tries themselves.
Asanga Seneviratne, president of the Sri Lanka Rugby Football Union commented on the importance of tomorrow’s game saying, “If we lost and still progressed on standings points alone, we will take it. But our aim is to win and earn promotion to the Top Five next year in a Sri Lankan rugby style. That’s the sort of mood our players are in.”
Sri Lanka head the four team tournament – Thailand and Chinese Taipei meet in a relegation battle – with 12 points after the opening two matches, having secured vital bonus points in both wins over Taipei (39-8) and Thailand (45-7). Kazakhstan is second on six points and need the maximum six points (five points for the win and a bonus point) to draw level with Sri Lanka.
If both teams are tied on points, the decision as to who will be promoted into the elite division for next year’s World Cup qualifying campaign will be decided on the head-to-head result, leaving Kazakhstan in with a chance.
“There is no reason why we cannot get back to the Top Five,” Mashurov said. “We have got used to the heat of Colombo and the players are confident.”
Recent history favours Kazakhstan. On the last two occasions they have met, the Central Asian republic has won both games, beating Sri Lanka in a Top Five encounter in 2011 (34-18). Sri Lanka’s only win over Kazakhstan was in 2006, when they won a World Cup qualifying match.
But Sri Lankan coach Ravin du Plessis believes the home fans and conditions will help boost the hosts who have been in sizzling form having scored 11 tries, all but one from their backs.
The only try scored by a forward has come from skipper and openside flanker Yoshitha Rajapaksa whose inspired leadership has given momentum to the team.
“Playing in front of your own fans will help the team. If they are not stimulated by that excitement, then they shouldn’t be playing the game,” said South African du Plessis.
With a proud 100-year-plus history of the game, Sri Lanka one of the founder-members of the Asian Rugby Football Union – which is celebrating its 45th year this year – will be intent on giving the fans a reason to cheer.
And Du Plessis believes his team has the right ingredients for victory. “Speed is our greatest asset and we have the ability to run the ball from anywhere and attack from anywhere.
“But we need an 80-minute performance. In both our previous two games, we have played well in patches. We need to finish it off now,” Du Plessis added.
Prediction: Sri Lanka by 5 points