Two weeks ago this Saturday the Cyprus Moufflons were brushed aside by the Maltese (31-3) in their first game of the newly formed Conference 1 South Division. The Maltese had played the previous week-end and had treated the Andorrans in a similar fashion putting 63 points on them. However, now the Cypriots are back on familiar ground, at their international base in Paphos, with their army of loyal fans behind them the outcome should be different. The opposition, Israel, have not met the Moufflons since their play-off for promotion seven years ago when Cyprus lost narrowly to them at the end of their first incursion into international rugby. The game was a watershed for the home side because they then went on to pursue a magnificent period where they remained undefeated in six years of the international game establishing themselves as the only side to hold a world record of 24 consecutive international winning games; a record that will stand for many a year. Last Saturday the mighty All Blacks—that were challenging for the record— went down for the first time in 18 games against the Irish—so back to the drawing board for them.
The presidents of both sides have a very good relationship, always exchanging seasons greetings, but there will no quarter given on Saturday . Coach, Andrew Binicos, has worked hard on the set pieces—the area that let them down in Malta—claiming: ‘If we don’t win our share of scrums and lines and totally commit to challenging theirs, we cannot win. It is a basic aspect of the game. The front five hold the keys to our performance, we have a cracking set of backs but they cannot do the job without the ball; it’s fundamental. I know the Israelis, they are a well schooled side and wont be easy, but I have every confidence that we will do the business and give the fans something to cheer about’.
An interesting event arose this week when Burhan Torgut, the veteran Moufflon scrum-half was invited into the training camp of the touring Australian side— that devastated the Welsh team last Saturday— for an insight into the antipodean’s coaching methods. After meeting all the coaching staff, Borhan stated ‘ This was such an unexpected privilage. It’s not every day you can get this close to some of the world’s best players and coaches; I hope some of it rubs off ‘.
Laurence Vasilliades, the President of the Cyprus Federation, remains sanguine, declaring ‘ I am really looking forward to this match, the Israelis will be very well prepared but I believe we have overcome the problems we faced in Malta; the coach has addressed the issues that haunted us there: the failure of the set pieces which denied the backs possession so we couldn’t open our attack. But it will be different on Saturday. Tell your readers to get there early if they want a good seat’.
Kick Off 2-30p.m. Paphiacos Stadium, Paphos.