This weekend the Serbian Rugby League takes a break and we turn our attention to the new Balkan Super League competition.
What Is It?
Two pools of four teams, with four teams from Belgrade, one team from Bosnia (Ragbi Liga Klub Vitez), one team from Sofia (Lokomotov Sofia), one team from Budapest and one team from Istanbul (Kadikoy Bulls).
Who are the Favourites for the Inaugural Title?
The consensus states that one of the three leading Belgrade clubs in Dorcol, Partizan or Red Star should be winning the first Balkan Super League, but rugby league games are not won on paper as Red Star found out at the weekend. Last week when previewing the Radnicki Nis vs Red Star match, we were wrong with the margin and winner by a long distance, but we did comment that in amateur sports the most important thing is getting 17 experienced players and keeping them throughout the season. We think the Balkan Super League is a wonderful concept, but it will test the depth, spirit and organization of every club that participates. The key issue for all eight clubs is therefore how the clubs and the players handle the additional games and the travel, and how often they can put their best 17 on the park, while keeping the atmosphere positive and happy!
Two weeks ago Radnicki Nis played gallantly with 14 players against Partizan and lost 60-10 in Belgrade. Three days ago, they played with a full 17 and beat an understrength Red Star with 15 players, 24-18. That’s only two examples of wildly varying results. The road trips to / from Istanbul will be a difficult proposition for any club in this competition.
In summary, cast aside any opinion that the Serbian clubs will clean sweep their oppositions. The travel will be a big leveller in the short term, so the Belgrade teams have to travel and not expect victory – each of them must earn it. From a competition credibility perspective, the issue will be how the international teams perform in Belgrade. Big scores could happen if the international teams cannot bring full, experienced 17’s particularly if they play against full strength teams.
Round 1 Matchups
The matchups include the 33rd edition of the “long derby” between Dorcol and Red Star. It will be the third meeting of these teams this year, with the honours shared at one apiece in 2017. Picking a winner in this match really comes down to preparation, attitude and team selections. Both teams have major scores to settle – Dorcol will be smarting after their 50-20 loss to Red Star in Round two of the Serbian Rugby League First Division, but the Red Star players are hurting after their performance on Sunday in Nis.
Partizan play against Vitez in Bosnia in the Group A match to start proceedings at 2pm. This will be a very interesting test for Vitez, who have been developing a strong rugby league culture over the last two years, and for Partizan who have arguably been the most consistent team so far this season in the Serbian Rugby League.
More details to come later in the week!