Topklasse Round 16 Preview
Bertus de Jong
The penultimate round of the Topklasse play-off phase looms on Sunday, with three crucial matches and one effective dead rubber, controversially sandwiched between the national team's two WCLC matches against Nepal. As a result clubs will be without their national team players for the matches, a fact which, though agreed to at the start of the season, may have rather more significant consequences than might have been anticipated.
Particularly unfortunate are Quick Haag, who will be without Wesley Barresi and Tim Gruijters for their decisive match against Excelsior '20, the winner of which will book themselves a place in the Final against Dosti. Quick will have home advantage, and Excelsior will be without Matt-Kai McGillivray, who has returned to South Africa, though not - as previously reported - Lorenzo Ingram, who we are now informed will see out the season. The two sides shared honours across their two league-phase fixtures, but with Quick missing their two lead run-scorers for the season the visitors are probably favourites on Sunday.
Sunday's other top-four clash, ACC versus Dosti-United, is both less significant and harder to call. Dosti are already assured of their finals spot, though after losing to Excelsior last week they are not guaranteed pole position, and are missing not only their overseas players Colin Ackermann and Robbie Frylinck, but also Mudassar Bukhari and Ahsan Malik owing to national team duties. Excelsior showed last Sunday how important Dosti's senior players are to the side, whilst ACC will only be missing Sikander Zulfiqar when they meet at het Loopveld. With Mangi Mosehla and JP de Villiers still in action for ACC, and Asad Zulfiqar growing into the anchor role at the top of the order, the home side are well placed to put one over on the defending champions.
Meanwhile at the other end of the table VOC and Hermes-DVS will likewise be without two key men, Hermes' Stephan Myburgh and VOC's Pieter Seelaar. VOC's problems are compounded by the loss to injury of captain Bobby Hanif, though it's understood that Bas Zuiderent will return to step into the gap for the critical match. Similarly for Hermes, greater responsibility will fall on the shoulders of Nick Statham, who has performed admirably holding the innings together after Myburgh's occassional failures. Hermes are all but safe feom relegation - barring a tie between VOC and VRA in their final game, but for VOC the match is must-win. Much will depend on the ability of the two veterans to marshall their young sides under pressure, but with home advantage and more at stake, VOC are probably marginal favourites.
Equally crucial in the battle to avoid the risk of relegation is HCC's match against VRA at de Diepput. HCC have been spared the loss of any players for the match barring any surprise last-minute call-ups, and the national obligations of VRA and Netherlands skipper Peter Borren were made somewhat academic given his injury on Monday. Nonetheless VRA will miss their captain, as well as Max O'Dowd to the national team and Quirijn Gunning - who is still sidelined with an ankle injury. Though the rest of the VRA batting line up seems to have found some late-season form, much will depend on Eric Szwarczynski continuing his excellent run of form or possibly Mitch Lees coming off at the top of the order again. HCC's second ground, on which necessity dictates th match be played, has proven a tough track to bat on thus far, and HCC's pace attack has proved well suited to take advantage. A brief display of fireworks with either bat or ball may well prove enough to take two points come Sunday.
Topklasse Round 16 Predictions:
Quick Haag v Excelsior '20 : Excelsior
ACC v Dosti-United : ACC
VOC v Hermes-DVS : VOC
VRA v HCC : HCC