Pic: THT players after beating KLHC 5-4 to lift the league title at the Batu Buruk Stadium in Kuala Terengganu.
KUALA Lumpur Hockey Club (KLHC) team manager George Koshy will have more than Sapura on mind when both the teams meet in the First Leg Semi-finals of the TNB Cup at the National Hockey Stadium in Bukit Jalil Tuesday.
For Koshy, who is also the Competitions Committe chairman, will have one eye on the haze enveloping the country right now.
The haze reading around Bukit Jalil yesterday evening, by the National Sports Institute, was around 180 to 200, and this could throw a spanner in the TNB Cup party.
The other semi-finals will be between league champions Terengganu Hockey Team and Maybank.
"The Competitions Committee is constantly monitoring the haze situation around Bukit Jalil, and if it reaches an unhealthy level, we will make a call on the spot. But we will not set any standard, or figure just yet, as there is a chance the situation could improve in the next 24 hours," said Koshy.
The form-book suggests KLHC and THT advance to the final, but both the coaches will be taking a cautious approach.
THT coach Sarjit Singh said: "Our aim is to play in the final and defend our Overall title and that's what we will be playing for. Having said that, Maybank have shown tremendous improvement from their disappointing league statistics, and they will be hard to beat, but not impossible."
Maybank finished fifth in the six-team league, with only one win and a draw to show. But they played much better in the two-leg quarter-finals to edge out a fighting Tenaga Nasional.
THT had beaten Maybank 5-1 and 3-2 in the league.
As for KLHC coach K. Dharmaraj, he believes Sapura would be a handful as they were held 3-3 and 4-4 in the league.
"Both our earlier matches against Sapura ended in draws, and that's one reason why the league title slipped from our hands. Players from both teams know each other well, and I predict KLHC will have to be on their toes during both legs to play in the final," said Dharmaraj.
Players to watch in THT are Faizal Saari, 13 goals, and Tengku Ahmad Tajuddin, seven goals.
As for KLHC, national skipper Razie Rahim is the mainstay in defense, as well as penalty corners where he has scored nine goals.
Pakistan import Muhammad Imran, with six penalty corner goals, will be Sapura's trump card.
TUESDAY --Semi-finals (First Leg): Terengganu Hockey Team v Maybank (Bukit Jalil Pitch II, 6pm); Sapura v Kuala Lumpur Hockey Club (Bukit Jalil Pitch II, 8pm).
THURSDAY: Semi-finals (Second Leg): Kuala Lumpur Hockey Club v Sapura (Bukit Jalil Pitch II, 6pm), Maybank v Terengganu Hockey Team (Bukit Jalil Pitch II, 8pm).