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Saturday, January 14, 2017

Final quality check for Sabah Rhinos

New Sabah Times

By Francis Xavier

 KOTA KINABALU: It’s going to be a final quality check for Steve Vilmiaire’s (pictured) side when they face off against Super League new boys Selangor PKNS in a pre-season friendly at the Likas Stadium tonight. With less than a week away from the big kick off, there is no better venue for the Sabah Rhinos head coach to have a good, final look, at his squad before plotting his strategy for their season opener against Negeri Sembilan on the road on January 20.

 He will surely not want to waste this opportunity to correct the wrongs in his rather young side. After all, this will be their only second competitive friendly of the pre-season. The good thing is that the newly promoted PKNS side are just the perfect opponent to do so. For the record, the clash is set to kickoff at 8.15pm.

 “I’ll take this as our last test. I need to see all the possibilities, as I have to be ready and competitive for the first game (against Negeri Sembilan),” said Steve when contacted yesterday. “I’m still thinking about the system of play, about the players’ positioning, and I’m going to do some testing (tonight).

 “My aim is to create a good environment around them (the players) and to find a system of play which will allow them to be comfortable and to express their full potential to get good results,” he added. The 32-year-old rookie coach, who is believed to be the youngest coach in the M-League 2017 campaign, said tonight, his top priority will be on how his team approaches the game, rather than the end result.

 “I’ll give the priority to the game and not on the result because win at all costs will bring stress…the players play with no serenity, no pleasure. So I want to build a team taking pleasure on the pitch and this pleasure will bring better performances. I want no stress and concern for them. “That’s why fans, players, management have to be on the same side, all defend an idea of play. If the outside pressure interferes on the group, it divides us and it’s not good.

We must be one,” he said. He also expects the players to play like they did in their 1-0 over Sarawak in their first competitive friendly last Sunday. He also hopes that they (players) will keep the same kind of spirit and be solid in defence. Against PKNS, he said his focus will be more on the offensive part of the team.

 “We have to control the game more even against a Super League team. I also want my players to be ambitious on the pitch, giving the game’s tempo. Even if we are young, I want them to look comfortable, mature and not struggling,” he said. On his game plan, Steve said he will probably be trying out the new system first, which will be the third one after trying out two systems in his previous friendlies.

 He also hinted that he is likely to do some positioning switch among his first team. Against Sarawak, Steve started with Rozaimi Rohim at his first choice custodian, and played Igor Cerina, Rawilson Batuil and Ahmad Azlan, who is on trial with the team, in his backline. His five-men midfield were Azzizan Nordin, who captained the state side, Masaya Jitozono, Sofiane Choubani, Maxsius Musa and Alto Linus while Jonathan Behe and Leopold Alfonso Otong spearheading the attack.

 He also brought in Radzi Md Hussin, Ummareng Bacok, Rahman Shah Marajeh and Mohd Rasid Aya in the tie. But tonight, Steve boys’ need to be at their best as PKNS look to be a stronger and better side than Sarawak. They have at least four ex-Sabah Rhinos in the team in the likes of Sabah-born striker Bobby Gonzales and Shahrul Azhar Ture.

 Goalkeeper G. Jeevanathan as well as defender Murusamy Sivakumar, who both have a spell with the Sabah Rhinos, are also in PKNS side coached by E. Elavarasan. Once dubbed as the nation’s top striker Safee Sali too will be around so are their foreign signings in the like of Patrick Wleh, Gonzalo Soto and Matias Jadua.

 The rest of PKNS 28-member squad are Lucas, Koo, Khairul Ramadhan, Azmizi Azmi, Aliff, Amiridzuan Taj, Nazrin Syamsul, Nor Haziq, Nizam Abu Bakar, Abdul Ghani Rahman, Azreen Zulkafli, Afize Faisal Mamat, Azmi Muslim, Fauzan Dzulkifli, Khyril Muhymeen, Sabree Mat Abu, Zamir Selamat, P. Gunalan, K. Gurusamy and S. Sivanesan.

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