Lebanon and South Africa have named their 19-man squads for Sunday’s opening 2017 Rugby League World Cup Middle East Africa Qualifier, at the Bosman Stadium, Brakpan outside Pretoria, and both are confident of gaining an early advantage in the two-game series.
“We have had a great preparation,” said South Africa coach Brian Greige. “For the past two weeks we have trained regularly as a squad and it has been very productive. The players have been coming together well and working together as a unit.
“It has been a great year for the Rhinos and the development has come together at the right time. I’m proud of what they have achieved and with the team that we have now, it will go far moving forward together.”
Lebanon, who lost Reece Robinson in the run up to their departure for South Africa has suffered further disruption with the absence of Jamie Clark, whose attempts to overturn a two-match ban for a dangerous throw failed. He is replaced by 19-year-old Canterbury hooker Ali Allouche.
Lebanon team manager Mohamed Chahal, who scored the first ever try for the Cedars, noted: “Our preparation has been pretty spot on; we’re building momentum and I think we are just about to peak at the right time. The South Africans are a big, fast side and I expect they will be ready to play and hopefully we’re on our game.”
Both teams have been invited to an official reception hosted by the Lebanese ambassador and two news crews have flown over from Beirut to cover the entire tour, an unprecedented sign of interest from the country’s major media outlets.
“It’s been fantastic to see the interest that has been sparked in Lebanon,” continued Chahal. “The side predominantly play in Australia but all the guys are excited putting on the Lebanese jumper as it allows them to re-connect to the motherland and that just adds more excitement to the tournament.”