The most awaited premier club rugby tournament in Sri Lanka will kick off at Beliatta between the defending champions Navy Sports Club and Hambanthota Sharks on October 31st Friday 2014. ThePapare briefly peaks into some noticeable changes.
The new season’s format has been changed. Previously the top six played in the cup category and bottom four teams played in the plate in the second round. Instead all the nine teams will be playing both home and away matches in round one and two and the top points scoring team will clinch the league.
Up Country Lions pulled off from the domestic competition after playing only just two years of rugby in the island. Most of the contracted players of the Lions have joined the Longdon place club and some at the Maitland Crescent. Tuskers Srinath Sooriyabandara and Nigel Ratwatte have joined Navy and Kandy S.C. respectively.
Meanwhile, the hill capital boys undoubtedly are one of the strong contenders to grab the title. Former captain Sean Wijesinghe returns from injury to strengthen the side while the current national sevens captain Fazil Marija as always will be threatening. Kishore Jehan, Pradeep Liyanage, Dinesh Sanjeewa etc have done a yeoman service for Kandy S.C. in the recent past and together with other national sevens caps in the side, the line up looks formidable. Johan Taylor, the South African will once again be in charge.
The Rajapaksa brothers are set to play in two different teams. The youngest, Rohitha Rajapaksa who led the Navy S.C. for a history making year by winning both the Dialog league and the Clifford cup knockout tournament in the last season has now chosen to lead the Army men who will be in black and gold. Mothilal Jayatilake shifts in as coach of the Army.
Yoshitha Rajapaksa, who could not make a huge impact last season due to his knee injury, is now fit and ready to take in charge of the sailors. Henry Terrence, Chamara Dabare, Sharo Fernando and Hasitha Perera from Havies will be crossing over to Navy.
Havelock’s sports club looks a bit shabby after several players crossed over to Navy S.C. due to a payment issue. While veteran Sherrif Mohamed, Sudarshan Muthuthanthri and Mithun Hapugoda are billed to contend the season for Havelocks, Glen Christini will take on coaching duties.
Rizah Mubarak and Vishvamitra Jayasinghe from CR & FC also moved to play for the Sailors. CR & FC has bought most of the Lions players including the veteran coach Imthi Marikkar to run the show at Longdon Place. Last year CR finished 5th in the league, however the club will depend a lot on the foreign players who are yet to come after the ITM cup finals in New Zealand.
A similar twist is that most of the CR & FC players walked down the independence square to join the CH & FC including their coach Bilal Yousuf. CH & FC suspended most of their players last year due to a disciplinary issue. CH looks underdogs for the upcoming season but it is a good opportunity for their youngsters to shine bright despite becoming the runners up in the club 7’s in May. Former President of Gymkhana Club Iqbal Hassen has appointed as new chairman and his expertise will also be beneficial to the club.
Hambanthota Sharks under the coach Nilfer Ibrahim has to stick with the Sri Lankan Fijian’s Waqawulagi Emori and Joseph Dunn. Unfortunately Sharks cannot claim these two players as locals after SLRFU made a ‘U’ turn with the decision despite these two players representing the National XV’s and 7’s.