The national rugby squad posing
for a picture at the Serasa
Ferry Terminal prior to their
departure for the Sabah
Governor's Cup Invitational
Rugby 15s in Kota Kinabalu
yesterday. Picture: BT/ Syarif
The national rugby team will kick off their Sabah Governor's Cup Invitational Rugby 15s campaign against Sabah's Eagles Rugby Club at 6pm today.
The team will have a tough time against the Sandakan-based club who are the champions of Malaysia's biggest cup tournament, the National Super Cup.
Today's other match of the four-team tournament at the Likas Stadium in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, will see Labuan take on Sarawak at 8pm.
The winners of both matches will progress straight to the final while the losers will face off for bronze, with both of those games to be played on Sunday.
The Philippines, who were originally booked to play in the tournament, had to withdraw due to prior commitments.
Despite a few national players forced to pull out due to family and work commitments, the national team's manager remained optimistic of their chances in Kota Kinabalu.
"It is unfortunate they had to pull out," said Muhammad Khalil Hazazi Abdul Latif on Wednesday.
"We have familiar faces from the original squad and the other players have experienced national tours as well.
"We had a longer preparation period for the players this time round and they are fit enough to give our competition a strong competitive edge.
"We have a squad of 22 very committed players from diverse backgrounds and clubs. They trained during Ramadhan and have really shown their commitment," Khalil added.
The team is made up of players from the Universiti Brunei Darussalam Sharks, Belait Pythons, Royal Brunei Police Force Sports Council, Knights Rugby Football Club and the Royal Brunei Armed Forces.
National coach Ben Bourne, who was hoping to bring 26 men to the tournament, appointed Lim Shen Quan as the captain for the backs and Ali Abdul Aziz Dato Seri Pahlawan Brigadier General (Rtd) Hj Jofri as the captain for the forward pack.
Their vice-captains will be Muhd Ali Nurul Saffuan Muhd Ali in the back line and Md Redha Hj Adinin for the forwards.
All countries participating have been offered free accommodation, meals (breakfast and dinner) and transport by the organisers; Sabah Rugby Union and Sabah's Ministry of Youth and Sports.
After their recent 38-0 on July 5 and 28-0 on July 7 to host nation Cambodia in the Asian 5 Nations, the national team will face possibly an even bigger challenge at the Sabah Governor's Cup as there are no restrictions on the number of foreigners or 'imports' in their teams.
Brunei Rugby Football Union Director of International Relations Ainol Razman Mohd Ghazaly told The Brunei Times last month that Sabah and Sarawak will be fielding professional Pacific Islanders.
Speaking from experience, Lim said that when the team played in a sevens tour in Kota Kinabalu in 2010, the Sabah team was a combination of islanders from New Zealand, Australia, Samoa, Fiji and Tonga.