Top guns meet in final prelude
RUGBY: Friday night's The Waves Spring Cup penultimate round clash between Turtles and West Barbarians will be a dress rehearsal for the grand final in a fortnight's time.
Reigning champions Turtles have extended their all conquering run from last season, including beating Barbarians in their three clashes so far this campaign, 43-14 on September 16, 20-10 on October 7 and 17-12 on October 28, and coach Rob Darney wants to continue on.
Turtles annihilated Falcons 81-7 a fortnight ago before getting the points on an Isis Crushers forfeit last Friday and Darney was not concerned about missing out on match practice.
"It was good to have a week off - it was sad that Isis had to forfeit again but we'll take it as a bonus - the guys were able to rest themselves and get over a few injuries," Darney said.
Darney said they would be without half-back Dean Burgess as he is out of town, but his place would be more than capably filled by Robert McKeown.
"But besides that, we should have a full strength team and it will be interesting to see how things unfold," he said.
The master coach has great respect for West, especially if former rugby league international Antonio Kaufusi and his younger brother Felise, a National Youth League grand final player for the Cowboys, play, but regardless, he also has great confidence in his side.
"I think Barbars have been playing very consistently but they have suffered a few injuries," he said.
"If the Kaufusi brothers play, they are a dynamic duo and they caused a bit of havoc with Falcons but I think a lot of the issues can be rectified with good solid defence and we have been highly ranked as the best defensive team for a number of years.
"But in the end, the team which turns up switched on and prepared to play the best game will win, although no things are given in this game and I expect a very hard fought match."
Darney expects the sniff of the final will bring out the best in his players, and he is not worried that their training numbers have not been great.
"Players like (Mat) Templeman, captain (Luke) Cummins, Joel Turaga and the McKeown brothers Robbie and Brenden love the smell of finals because we are specialists at it," he said.
"We haven't had the numbers I would have liked at training, however the players who do turn up have committed themselves and we have a bit of a network where we share information between the team and players turn up with the right attitude on game night."