By Phil Caplan, Date: 17/5/13

Rugby League European Shield Game 7 – Serbia v Germany – Preview

The 2012-13 European Shield recommences in Belgrade on Saturday, with Serbia hosting Germany. Twelve months ago in Heidelberg, Germany sprung an upset, beating Serbia for the first time, by the narrowest of margins.

“Two interesting challenges are in front of us in the following ten days,” said a pensive Marko Jankovic, the Serbian coach, who will also lead his men against arch-rivals Russia on 25 May. “Our approach to this round of fixtures is a cautious one,” he admitted, “although there is an expectation for all our effort to gain results.”

His squad has certainly undergone a meticulous preparation for the second round of matches. A series of elite camps and domestic representative fixtures culminated in last week’s tour by Lancashire Police, who Serbia defeated 40-16.

Jankovic recalls four players, although Zoran Pesic’s astounding streak of 27 consecutive appearances for the national team will come to end, with the hooker remaining with his club, Lyon. Six debutants are vying for their first full international cap; Mihailo Bošković, Marko Ćuk, Mile Podkoljnjak, Igor Vratnjan and Soko Vranje duo Strahinja Jevtić and Nemanja Petrović. Eleven of the squad are drawn from Dorcol and Red Star.

Defending Shield champions Germany prepared for the match with a game against Holland two weeks ago. Although they are level with Serbia and Italy on two points, their heavy defeat in Italy means they must get a result against the Serbians if they are to have a realistic chance of avoiding last place and relegation.

Coach Dan Stocks names three debutants in Hanspeter Hora, Jonas Kindler and Hagen Schmidt, while Jonathan Zerweck and Jonas Burkhardt have been called up following impressive displays against Holland. That inexperienced quintet will be surrounded by a largely experienced side that, while missing Leeds Rhinos’ Jimmy Keinhorst, is led by two of his brothers, Nick and Kristian. In an outstanding display of commitment, Australian-based hooker Josh Danzey flies in from Queensland while Oxford’s Andy Hoggins returns to the side after featuring in Germany’s successful 2011 Shield campaign. Both win their fourth caps.

“I’m looking towards the experienced players to guide the debutants in what is sure to be a physical game,” said Stocks. “The Serbians were narrowly beaten last year and will have a point to prove, especially at home. However, the Keinhorst brothers, Huber, Amefia and the North Rhine Westphalia Broncos lads will know what to expect. I am also keen to see how Elite 1 forward Jeff Moat performs.”

Miloš Zogović (Car Lazar), Mihailo Bošković, Mirko Božović, Stefan Nedeljković, Stevan Stevanović, Dalibor Vukanović (Dorćol), Marko Ćuk, Radovan Tajsić (Military Academy), Marko Milenković (Niš), Igor Vratnjan (Podbara), Nemanja Božić, Mile Podkoljnjak (Radnički Nova Pazova), Miloš Ćalić, Vladislav Dedić, Vojislav Dedić, Ivan Djordjević, Vladica Nikolić, Nebojša Živanović (Red Star Belgrade), Strahinja Jevtić, Nemanja Petrović (Soko Vranje)

Christoph Huber (Bad Reichenhall), Hanspeter Hora, Jonas Kindler, Hagen Schmidt, Sebastian Vermaat (Bamberg), Mawuli Amefia (Heidelberg), Jonas Burkhardt (Hochspeyer), Sebastian Roczyn, Jonathan Zerweck (Karlsruhe), Kristian Keinhorst, Nick Keinhorst (Leeds Akkies), Jeff Moate (Lescure), Ben Behr-Heyder, Liam Doughton, Fabrice Fehlmann (NRW Broncos), Andy Hoggins (Oxford), Josh Danzey (Sunshine Coast Sea Eagles)