South Africa v Lebanon : RLWC 2017 qualifier preview

South Africa need to beat Lebanon by 29 points tomorrow (31st October) in the second leg of the 2017 Rugby League World Cup Qualifier – MEA, in Brakpan, Pretoria, if they are to progress to the Antipodes.  The Cedars triumphed 40-12 in the first leg on the same ground and go into the game confident of making their first World Cup since 2000.

South Africa have been without head coach Brian Greige for most of the week following his pre-arranged trip back to Australia to complete a high performance qualification.  Assistant Drikkies Mulder has been responsible for preparing the side in his absence and Rupert Wells comes into the squad, replacing Nardus Raubenheimer, while highly rated 19-year-old play-maker Ruaan Du Preez looks to have recovered from a knee injury that prevented his selection last week.   South Africa missed his goal-kicking ability, failing with all three attempts last time out.

“After Sunday’s game the Rhino players had a lot of small injuries,” said Mulder. “On Monday we had a good recovery session and overall we’ve had a hard week at practice, with a lot of defence and communication drills.  The players had a good and hard talk about the job at hand this Saturday and there is a positive attitude in the Rhino camp.”

Lebanon goes into the game without talismanic co-captain Ray Moujalli but in relaxed mood. Moujalli, the popular Newtown Jets front rower, suffered a deep gash to his knee which will keep him out for several weeks. He has been replaced by veteran utility player Ead Kassem in Darren Maroon’s 19-man-squad.

“Preparations have been good,” said Lebanon assistant coach Chris Salem. “We are settled in here [at Pretoria’s High Performance Centre] after a few days acclimatising to the conditions. The facilities are great and the boys are looking well.

“It took a couple of days for them to get over Sunday’s match, which was played under a hot sun and on a hard ground, but they are feeling bright and ready to go.  We have not been too worried about the team getting carried away. Everybody’s focusing on the task at hand and what they are doing. There’s absolutely no issue with us thinking the job is done at all.”

The match, which kicks off at 3pm local time at the Bosman Stadium, Brakpan, will be available to view via livestream: