Mohd Shukri Jaineh (C) in action against Cambodia during last year's Southeast Asian (SEA) Games team double event in Myanmar. The national team yesterday left to Kuala Lumpur for the ISTAF Super Series Final, where national coach Japar Wali has identified Japan as their biggest threat in the group stage. Infofoto
National sepak takraw coach Japar Wali stressed that Japan will be their strongest competitors during the group stages of tomorrow's International Sepak Takraw Federation (ISTAF) Super Series 2013/2014 Final in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
Japan will be the national team's biggest obstacle as they rank fourth on the ISTAF world ranking while Brunei sit in seventh heading into the March 5-9 tournament.
Brunei are also set to face 11th ranked Iran and 12th ranked China in their Group D matches at the Titiwangsa Indoor Stadium.
"Japan will be the hardest in the group because their tekong, feeder and killer are strong," Japar said before departing for Malaysia yesterday.
"The last time we played them we lost 2-1 (17-15, 12-15, 15-12) with the junior team during the third leg in Sabah last year.
"Now we have three players who represented Brunei at the December's Myanmar Southeast Asian (SEA) Games plus two of the juniors from the third leg," said the ex-national player when met at the Brunei International Airport in Berakas.
Travelling to the Malaysian capital are Ismail Ang (killer), Mohd Hafizuddin Jamaluddin (feeder) and Mohd Shukri Jaineh (killer) - who took part at last year's SEA Games - while Nur Alimin Sunggoh (tekong) and Mohd Alifuddin Jamaluddin (tekong) have the past experience of taking on Japan during the third leg in Kota Kinabalu.
"Hopefully the team will do better now that we have combined both old and new players," said Japar.
"We also must not look down on the new upcoming teams because they are emerging really fast in the ranks.
"South Korea (ranked sixth) were unknown at one point and now they are very strong, so hopefully we can finish in the top five," added Japar.
The tournament will see 13 teams compete. Group A is made up of Germany, India and defending champions Thailand while hosts Malaysia are in Group B alongside Singapore and France. Group C consists of Indonesia, US and South Korea.
Ismail, who is captaining the team, is content with the draw they have been handed.
"It's not going to be easy but we will be trying our best because it's the final leg of the series," he said.
Brunei took part in all three ISTAF Super Series legs that were held last year. They finished ninth during the first two legs in India and Thailand before placing sixth in Sabah.
Mohd Shukri doesn't feel like they managed to get enough training leading up to the competition but remains confident of producing a good showing this week.
"We only had a month's training and not everyone could always make it, but we will still be trying our hardest," said Shukri.
"It's been a long time since we've been played against China but I'm confident with all our group matches.
"Hopefully if we do make it to the next round we won't have to face Thailand, South Korea, Indonesia or Malaysia first," added Shukri.
Thailand are the top ranked team in the world while Malaysia are second. Indonesia lie fifth and South Korea one spot behind at sixth.
Brunei Darussalam Sepak Takraw Association (Pestabaru) president Pg Hj Ali Hassan Pg Dato Seri Laila Jasa Hj Abbas hopes to see better results from the team in Kuala Lumpur.
"As the president, I hope that we can get a better rank this time round," said Pg Hj Ali.
"Hopefully we can do well in the group stages and move to the next stage to boost the team's confidence again after the SEA Games," said Pg Hj Ali, who also expressed his heartfelt thanks to NBT for sponsoring the team.
Brunei managed to pick up two bronze medals from the hoop event and men's team double event during the SEA Games.
Local ISTAF recognised referee Idris Hj Shahdan will also be in Kuala Lumpur to officiate matches.