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Tough task for Rhinos

Ranchi: Bolstered by a strong showing in the league stages, table-toppers Punjab Warriors would look to continue their winning streak against defending champions Ranchi Rhinos when the two sides meet in the second semi-final of the Hero Hockey India League (HIL), on Saturday.

In the first semi-final, going by their form as well as reputation, Delhi Waveriders would start overwhelming favourites against Uttar Pradesh Wizards. The Warriors had a dream campaign in the HIL this season, having lost just one match so far, that too against the Waveriders in the tournament opener.

After the initial hiccup, the Warriors won seven games while two ended in no result to draw curtains to their league engagements on top with 40 points from 10 games. To add to it, the Warriors boast of a 100 per cent record against the Rhinos this year, having beaten the defending champions 4-2 and 3-2 in their two meetings.

On the other hand, the Rhinos’ campaign in the tournament has been far from impressive this season. The title holders won just four and lost five matches while one ended in draw to finish the league stages in the fourth position with just 26 points.

But the Rhinos know it very well that it will be a completely new game on Saturday and if they can post a win against the Warriors, the results of the league stages will be a thing of the past.

The Rhinos can also take heart from the fact that the entire stadium will be rooting for them. But to upset the Warriors, the Rhinos star players in captain Moritz Fuerste, Justin Reid-Ross, Floris Evers, Ashley Jackson, Barry Middleton, Manpreet Singh and Mandeep Singh will have to rise to the occasion.

The Warriors forwardline will be led by the FIH Player of the Year award winner Jamie Dwyer of Australia. Apart from Dwyer, the Warriors strike force includes a mixed bag of youth and experience like Affan Yousuf, Gurmail Singh, Malak Singh, Dharamvir Singh, SV Sunil, Shivendra Singh and Australian Kieran Govers among others.