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Malaysia: Cobra aim to produce more local venom

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DESPITE the Malaysian Rugby Union (MRU) allowing clubs to register up to eight foreign players for the Super League, defending champions Cobra will keep their reliance on imports to a minimum this year.

Cobra vice-president Tan Thiam Jin said the club have signed two Fijians to replace two outgoing players, and is adamant the team will continue to use the tournament as a platform to develop local talent.

Cobra have this week sealed the signings of second-row flanker Jesereli Bolanivu, 26, and back Alipate Ciba, 23, from Fijian provincial side Lautoka.

The duo, who will join current import Vatimio Rabebe, are replacements for outgoing veterans Kini Rasolosolo and Semesa Gonevou whose contracts were not renewed by the club at the end of last year.

“We needed some fresh legs and have signed these two players based on recommendations from our contacts in Fiji,” said Thiam Jin.

“Both are proven performers and will be an asset to us. Alipate was the top scorer in the Digicel Cup in Fiji last year which says a lot about his ability.

“We will not be adding to our (foreign) players this season as we want to keep using the tournament as a chance to expose our new intake of academy players to top level club competition.

“We have a new batch of 20 players that joined the programme in January and will try to incorporate as many of them as possible into our 30-man Super League squad.

“These young boys will learn a lot by playing alongside our three imports and five senior (local) players.”

The five local players, all key national players, are K. Dineshwaran, Nazeer Nesharah, Mohd Amin Jamaluddin, Mohd Hafizh Zainal and Mohd Syahir Asyraf Rosli who is club and national captain.

Thiam Jin said he is confident the team are ready to once again challenge for honours in the competition but anticipates a tougher time this year in view of the new MRU ruling regarding imports.

The team impressed in friendly matches against Negri Sembilan Wanderers and Royal Selangor Club last week which they won 31-25 and 19-11 respectively.

“We expect other teams to capitalise on the new ruling and believe the competition will become much tougher this year,” said Thiam Jin.

“But based on our pre-season form and the ability of our new-look team to blend, I feel we have what it takes to defend our title.”

The Super League kicks off on Feb 16.

WorldRugbyShop.com

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