Sabah Eagles take cautious approach in title challenge

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Sabah Eagles are eyeing the prestigious Agong Cup in its 36th edition, but adopt a cautious approach despite a well prepared and strengthened team for the challenge this year.

The four champions Sabah, take on Perak in the quarterfinals match at the National Defence University of Malaysia (NDUM) Stadium in Sungei Besi at 4pm on Saturday.

The team who arrived from Sandakan on Wednesday evening, where they were based at the Eagles Rugby Club (ERS), had a surprise visit in the evening at their hotel from Datuk V.K. Liew, Minister (Law) in the Prime Minister’s Department, who is the MP for Batu Sapi in Sandakan, who has further boosted the morale of the team.

Datuk Liew in addressing the players said: “I am looking to seeing the Sabah team do well and hopefully win the trophy we last won in 2015.”

However, he warned the players not to treat any opponent lightly or get complacent.

Head coach of Sabah, Bradley Moni Mika, also echoed the same sentiments.

“We may have a fitter team with a good mix of youth and experience and trained well for this tournament, but we are going to take one match at a time and not treat any of our opponents lightly

The team has been in training for three months in three phases in Sandakan and Mika, who is also the Development coach with ERS, besides working on the team fitness, has been emphasising on teamwork and system.

Bradley was also hoping that former All Black player Charles Luke McAlister, who joined the team last Saturday, will also add experience and guidance to the team.

The 35-year-old who announced his retirement from rugby last year after a professional career spanning 16 years ended at French club Toulon, was impressed with the team and looking forward to guide the team.

“This is the first time I am playing in Malaysia, but my first impressions are very positive,” said the friendly McAlister who has been named the captain of the Sabah team.

“I am looking forward to the tournament and my teammates have made me very welcomed and it has been a joy playing with them. I hope help in giving my experience to add strength to the team, but in the end it is going to be a team effort as everyone contribution is valuable for the team to perform.”

The former Blues fly-half made his All Blacks debut in the third test against the British and Irish Lions at Eden Park in 2005 and he played 30 tests in the black jersey from 2005-11.

McAlister is a New Zealand rugby union footballer. He is the brother of New Zealand women’s sevens player Kayla McAlister and son of rugby league player Charlie McAlister.

Sabah who made their debut Agong’s final in 2005 but lost went on to win in 2007, 2009, 2014 and 2015.

Out of the current team’s 28 players, seven players ages are from 17-22 years including some players from the recent Sukma Games.

Among the senior players who will stabilise the team include Badrul Muktee and former national player Zamorin Mingo who is making a return after a long layoff.

The Agong Cup was introduced in 1983 and PDRM winning the inaugural title.

Armed Forces has won the Cup the most – winning 11 times. Selangor is next with 6 wins, followed by Kelantan and Sabah with four victories under their belt.

The other quarterfinals tie in this year’s edition are Kedah who play Kuala Lumpur on Saturday at 2pm and Johor against Negri Sembilan and Terengganu who play Kelantan on Sunday at the same venue – NDUM Stadium – at 2pm and 4pm respectively.

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