Finally, after giving the national team a free hand, the male league starts off in earnest. Enköping play Exiles at 3 pm, N.B. in Enköping, while Trojan receive Pingvin in Norrköping at 2 pm. The teams have been keeping their cards pretty close to their chests and it´s difficult at this stage to pick obvious winners.
Exiles are feeling pretty happy with their preparations, they´ve had over 70 players appearing at least once at training and there is usually over 40 at each session. Exiles will of course be fielding two teams, their B-team starting off by beating Hammarby 19 -10 last week. Coach Henry van Niekerk has moved up to team manager after winning five titles in a row and is also helping out with the national team. The new coach is another South African, Neill Erasmus, one of Sweden´s best players for many years. He has been assisted by Sean Burke, Ian Gowland and Paul Sutherland, all Exiles and Swedish stars with two still playing. And Hunter Jr, also an international top try scorer and Swedish coach of the year many years ago is in charge of the B-team.
Exiles have lost only one or two marginal players from last year and have added another Georgian prop who has been playing in Russia. In addition, the excellent Fijian-Danish back Christian Melgaard who works in Stockholm has moved to Exiles from Trojan. We have also about 15 new players who have just bobbed up, although one or two useful ones as a result of suggestions from current players. A few players will be missing this weekend, but Exiles will still have a good team including an enormous pack. Enköping have been advertising for players and have found a couple of young props from the Netherlands. This will strengthen a weakness from last year but it will be interesting to see how they fare against a couple of blue-jawed mature Georgians playing for Exiles. An American and a Latvian have also been added to the squad. Enköping did not badly in a 7-a-side tournament in Lithuania last week, winning two of their four games. Easily their best player was Cameron King, the Scot who made a valuable contribution to the Enköping attack last year. He will no doubt do the same again but his impressive Argentinian partner seems to be missing in 2022. And veterans Robin and Tim will no doubt still be playing a part.
Enköping have only beaten Exiles once in recent years and that was after a 15 – 0 penalty count against Exiles in the second half. I think Exiles will prove the stronger by the second half but I look forward to an exciting and close game.
I know even less about the other two teams in the Super Series so should be rather cautious about predictions. Trojan have been fielding nearly half the national team in their recent successful series, although why that has been the case has puzzled many outsiders. Their coach, Anna-Lena Swartz, has had to withdraw at the last minute because of other commitments and this will not have helped. Two of their international forwards have taken over the task. Christopher Sidgwick who has been studying abroad has decided to move from Hammarby to Troján, probably a wise move if he wishes to make a return to the national team. A former Exiles´ forward, Henning Engström, now studying at Linköping has also signed up for them. I don´t know how badly injured stand-off Mattieu Cossin was in the international last week but I imagine their other internationals will be out in force, including Sweden´s best striker, Alex Melander. They will be facing Pingvin who had no starters in the internationals and superficially Troján should win easily. It´s probably a bit more complicated than that. Pingvin have 5 -6 useful Georgians who ran the show last year and scored almost all their points. They have also just signed a useful English winger who may do some damage. There was in addition talk of other foreign players arriving. I expect another close game with Troján having the edge. This is, however, Pingvin´s 60th anniversary, congratulations, and they wjll be planning for another outcome.
Nine teams in the Ladies championships with long-distance travel meaning that few away teams win. Last years winners, Skåne Ladies, a combination of 3 club sides ,look once again to be the pick of the bunch, with Göteborg, Exiles and Enköping in hot pursuit. Hardly a level playing field with a club combination involved, but if the other ladies are happy, who am I to complain?
Only a couple of games in Div. 1 Allsvenskan, one in the North and one in the South-East. Hammarby put up a solid display last week but still lost 19 -10 to a powerful Exiles B team. Erikslund won the title at this level last year and have a couple of training wins under their belt. They are a farmer club to Enköping but how this could help I don´t know. Erikslund could just have the edge but Hammarby might well spring a surprise.
On Sunday we have the Gothenburg derby between Spartacus and Göteborg. There are hints that Spartacus could be pulling away from their arch-rivals. We´ll se if this is really the case on Sunday.
So, four male games and four ladies to entertain us in league matches. By our very modest standards a bumper weekend.