By November 8, 2013 Newsroom

KUALA LUMPUR (8 NOVEMBER 2013): The national sepaktakraw team’s recent loss to Thailand in the ISTAF SuperSeries MALAYSIA 2013/14 final in Sabah has spurred them to work harder to overcome their traditional rivals come the SEA Games in December and the SuperSeries Final.

After taking a 2-0 lead at the Likas Sports Complex in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia was within striking distance of their first win over Thailand since 2005 but lost their rhythm and fell 2-3 (15-12, 15-11, 4-15, 12-15, 7-15) in a 1 hour, 39-minute thriller. 

Coach Jamaluddin Hassan attributed the loss primarily to the Thais substituting first-choice tekong Rattadech Noijaroen for Tanawat Chumsena midway through the second set. By the beginning of the third, the 20-year-old Tanawat had thrown Malaysia off-course by changing his style with almost every serve. The narrow defeat left most of the Malaysian team red-eyed and striker Hanafiah Dollah in tears.

In reviewing their tournament, Jamaluddin said he would study videos of all Thailand’s games in Sabah as well as those of the Indonesians, who had given the national team a tough fight in their Group A match.

“Before this final, I would say that chances of us beating the Thais were only 30-70,” he said. “Now, I would say its 50-50 as we have seen all their players in action and know their strategies and techniques, which we will study in-depth to have a winning edge.”

To ensure they were at full strength for both the SEA Games and SuperSeries Final, Jamaluddin said the team would focus on improving their fitness levels so that they would be able to last five sets, noting that they had run out of steam during the final two sets against Thailand.

He also said there was much room for individual improvement, singling out tekong Noor Azman Abdul Hamid as one player who would have to work harder on his game.

“This was Noor Azman’s first international tournament since the 2011 SEA Games, and he underwent only one month of training prior to Sabah,” said Jamaluddin. “His service was quite ineffective, but I know he can work harder and be on par with players from Thailand.”

Jamaluddin, however, was satisfied with Hanafiah, Noor Azman and feeder Mohd Syazreen Qamar Salehan’s performance in their first international tournament as a team, adding that the combination was one of the best Malaysia had ever fielded.

“This regu will be among three that we will maintain for future tournaments,” he said. “We will also mix and match players from each regu to ensure we have the strongest combination possible.”

Hanafiah, who played a key role in fending off the Thai attack with perfectly-timed spikes and blocks, was also determined to do better in the future. The 22-year-old played his first international tournament at ISTAF SuperSeries Malaysia as first-choice striker after Noorshahruddin Mad Ghani sustained a ligament injury at ISTAF SuperSeries Thailand in September.

‘I was very disappointed with the outcome in Sabah as we were leading 2-0 and almost made it 3-0,” he said. “I played my best, but I was also becoming nervous towards the end of the third set as we were so close to winning and that may have affected our overall performance.”

Malaysia’s runner-up finish in Sabah was their third in ISTAF SuperSeries 2013/14. They lost 3-0 to both the Koreans and Thailand in New Delhi and Bangkok, respectively.

The team began will enter their last phase of training from November 11-28 in Langkawi before the SEA Games kicks off in Myanmar. The ISTAF SuperSeries 2013/14 Final is scheduled to be held February 13-16 in Kuala Lumpur.

Released by Shekhinah PR on behalf of Asia Sports Ventures.

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