Highlanders take aim at OJs

HARARE - Struggling Intercity Rugby League (IRL) sides Highlanders and Old Johannians (OJs) take their relegation fight to Hartsfield Grounds in Bulawayo this afternoon as they hope to ease their woes.

The visitors are currently in ninth position on the 11-team table with six points from six matches having won once and lost five while Bosso are in 10th place with five points.

IRL is set to relegate three teams this season that will drop to the B League next season and the toss will be between Highlanders, OJs, eighth-placed Gweru Sports Club and bottom side Bulldogs.

Bosso go into today’s match on the back of a heavy 51-0 defeat to Police Defenders at Old Georgians Sports Club last weekend while OJs managed to register their first win of the season with a 49-17 win over Gweru Sports Club at the same venue.

Highlanders’ manager Mayibongwe Ncube said surviving relegation is top on their priority list for the remainder of the season and the transition has to start by overpowering OJs today.

“We will give it our best. Highlanders is a big brand and we need to justify that by starting to pick up maximum points from this match going forward,” Ncube said.

“Both sides are struggling which makes it a difficult game but we have to turn a corner now if we are to remain in the topflight rugby league.

“It is a big feat (surviving relegation), nothing is ever easy but we have to put in more hours of hard work because we want to survive relegation.”

Ncube said his club has fallen prey to the unavailability of some of their key players due to other commitments.

“As it is most of the guys are committed elsewhere and others are out of the country and we are having to recruit more players every time and getting to put everyone on the same wavelength has been our biggest let down.” He said.

“I’m however, confident that we will bounce back to winning ways today that is if we can make use of our speed and cohesion as well as to try and avoid mistakes especially in the final third.”

OJs manager Roger Woodward is also hoping his charges will win today but also reckons it will not be an easy game.

“There was a breakdown in team structure at the beginning of the season which we have addressed.

“Yes, we hope to add to last week’s win with another victory in Bulawayo, which is not easy and we are aiming to make the top semis by season end,” Woodward said.

“Our head coach left us at the beginning of the season and we have been struggling to find a replacement, we have senior players who are taking care of sessions.

“We also had lost our home ground due to financial issues but in the past few weeks we have established a training ground which has helped.

“We were at ZB Sports Club in Vainona but we now use the grounds at UZ and we also use Borrowdale Racecourse.”

Meanwhile, the Sables who are in camp for next weekend’s Rugby Afrique Gold Cup clash against Namibia in Windhoek, will this afternoon get to play a practice match among themselves at Harare Sports Club at 3pm.

Sables coach Cyprian Mandenge said: “It is just a practice game to finalise the squad for Namibia we have been having 30 guys in camp going through two training sessions of one hour 30 minutes a day which has been good so far and this match will give us an appreciation of how the guys can account for themselves in a proper game situation.”

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