Namibia: Arch-Rivals United and Wanderers Square Up

A tremendous battle can be expected when United host Wanderers at Trustco United Park on Friday night in their second round Rugby Premier League encounter.

Both United and Wanderers as well as Unam are involved in a tight race to finish on top of the log at the end of the group stages and Friday night's result could have a big effect on the outcome.

United currently lead the log on 42 points, but they were hammered 52-15 by Unam last weekend and will be eager to get back to winning ways.

Unam are now second on 41 points with a match in hand on United, while Wanderers are third on 36 points, but with two matches in hand on United. If they win them both they will go to the top of the log, but it certainly won't be easy, as they face United and then Unam twice over the next three weeks, after their first leg encounter against Unam was postponed till 27 July.

Unam and Wanderers were the early pace setters in the league, but on 18 May, United scored a stunning 58-31 away victory against Wanderers to go to the top of the log for the first time.

The match was still wide open at half time with United holding a narrow 28-24 lead, but they turned on the style to eventually run in seven tries to complete a maximum bonus points victory.

That victory was the start of a five-match winning streak, which at a stage saw them leading the log by eight points, but last weekend's defeat to Unam has now made the title race wide open again.

Wanderers coach Vince Dreyer, meanwhile, did not read too much into their earlier defeat to United.

"We just gave a below par performance that day, while United played very well. Our wing Nandi Karuuombe scored three tries in the first half, but in the second half United kept possession and we hardly saw the ball.

"We've analysed that match on video, so we know where we went wrong and what to do to correct that. We need to be more physical and dominate more up front," he added.

Dreyer said he expected a big backlash from United.

"I'm expecting a big onslaught from United's forwards after they lost to Unam last week, so we will have to match them up front," he added.

Regarding the title race, Dreyer said there was still a lot to play for.

"The top three clubs have already qualified for the semifinals, but it's important to finish as high as possible to improve our play-off chances, so there's still a lot to play for. I believe we can still do much better; we have been playing below par and made a lot of silly mistakes till now," he said.

According to Dreyer, loose forward Christo van der Merwe and wing Tuna Amutenya are unavailable due to injury, while centre Bredell Wessels is unavailable due to personal reasons. They, however, still have a strong squad that will be captained by prop Quinton Esterhuizen, and includes Stefan Hattingh, Kevin Vorster, Driaan Vorster and Peter Diergaardt amongst the forwards, and Lean Stoop, Elmarco Beukes, Jamie Joseph, Nandi Karuuombe and Brandon Groenewald amongst the backs.

United coach Robbie Dickson was not available for comment, but they too can be expected to field a strong side with the likes of Gerhard Thirion, Chris Swanepoel, Naude Neethling, Dean Blom and captain Winmar Rust amongst the forwards, and Hanreco van Zyl, Henry Kandjou, Stefan Louw and Darryl Vries amongst the backs.

In other Premier League matches on Saturday, Western Suburbs host Reho Falcon at Suburbs Park, while Rehoboth host Kudus in Rehoboth.

With Wanderers, Unam and United already having qualified for the semifinals, the battle for the fourth spot is on and all these clubs, with the exception of Falcons still have a chance to make the playoffs.

Suburbs are currently fourth on 22 points, but Rehoboth on 19 points have a match in hand, while Kudus on 14 points have two matches in hand, and with all still to play for, two exciting encounters can be expected.

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