By Harsha Amarasinghe
Despite the absence of a number of first team members, Havelock Sports Club have been strengthened with the return of two senior campaigners from long-term injuries as wing three quarter Sandun Herath and scrum half Mithun Hapugoda have both been named in their starting XV for the Dialog Inter-Club League Rugby Tournament opening fixture against Army Sports Club at Havelock Park today (09), under lights at 6.30 p.m.
Herath though made a few appearances in the first half of last season was unavailable for most of the league competition as well as for the Clifford Cup Knock-Out Tournament due to an ankle injury while Hapugoda is returning to competitive rugby after nearly two years.
Herath has replaced Kevin Dixon who had a stellar start to the previous season before a knock to his jaw ended his campaign and at the end of season he crossed over to the CR and FC.
Herath may not offer the same pace as Dixon would, but his experience could come in handy for the Park Club.
On the other hand, Niroshan Fernando’s team would desperately want Mithun Hapugoda to perform well as scrum half as they don’t have many options for this position in comparison to last season where Head Coach Sanath Martis was spoilt for the choice with Sudam Parinda and Rahul de Silva both pushing hard to be the team’s scrum half.
However, both the players have now left the club and Martis has Hapugoda and Vimukthy Rahul to cope with.
Not many changes however, have been made to the Havelock SC pack although Shehan Dias and Prasath Madushanka too opted to leave the club.
Azmir Fajudeen who has really flourished under Martis would be an automatic choice for the hooker position while senior duo Dushmantha Priyadarshana and Liston Flatny would be placed either side of him in the front row.
Sharo Fernando will be paired up with ex-Royal lock Umesh Madushanka in the second row while Senal Deelaka, Shawkat Lahir would join Lasindu Ishan in the third row.
This could be a massive season for young Dinuk Amarasinghe who has been in sensational form for the National side as the former St. Anthony’s Skipper looks to build up a fine centre combination with the new-signing Dinushan Ariyapala.
Army Sports Club meanwhile are set to hand club debut to Fijian centre Sosiveta Rura Boila who is expected to start the game.
Prop forward Sugath Nanayakkara who was a massive part in them finishing third at the end of first half of the previous season, will join Aravinda Karunathilake and Niroshan Ranasinghe in the front row while the half back combination of Mohamed Rizvi and Ashan Bandara remains to be their strength.
Havelock SC: Dushmantha Priyadarshana, Azmir Fajudeen, Liston Flatny, Sharo Fernando, Umesh Madushanka, Senal Deelaka, Shawkat Lahir, Lasindu Ishan, Mithun Hapugoda and Niroshan Fernando (Captain), Chamara Dabare, Dinuk Amarasinghe, Dinushan Ariyapala, Sandun Herath, Riza Mubarak.
Army SC: Niroshan Ranasinghe, Aravinda Karunathilake, Sugath Nanayakkara, Dinusha Adikaram, Nalan Premanath, Prabath Kumara, Upul Abeyratne (Captain), Danuka Wijethilake, Mohamed Rizvi and Ashan Bandara, Janith Janaka, Kasun Maduranga, Sosiveta Rura Boila, Madura Nuwan, Gayan Salinda.