Rivals meet again but play-offs are the priority

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IF you take Doncaster versus Rotherham today as a one-off, then it has all the hallmarks of an intense, mouthwatering local derby.

Viewing it in the context of the season, on the other hand, it will only be regarded as a turn-off.

For with both South Yorkshire sides bound for the play-offs, today’s televised lunchtime game has little meaning, save for the odd shuffling of positions.

Both teams are set to go into the post-season as lowly seeds faced with a tall order to make the semi-finals, hence the need for both to ensure they are at full strength when the promotion play-offs begin in three weeks.

“It’s a balancing act,” said Rotherham head coach Andre Bester, who has been rotating players frequently since they ensured their place in the top eight of the Championship in January.

“If we had continued playing at full strength we would have burned out, like we did last season. But we go into this game paying full respect to the history of our club, this fixture and Doncaster.”

Bester’s opposite number Brett Davey similarly, believes little is to be read into the outcome in terms of league positions.

Doncaster are in the middle of a run of four fixtures in 10 days, which began with defeat at Nottingham on Wednesday.

But in isolation, today’s game gives Doncaster the chance to gain revenge over the Titans, who were the stronger side in beating the Knights at Clifton Lane in November.

“This is an opportunity for us to strike back after the disappointment of Nottingham and the frustration of losing to Rotherham last time, when we were the better team for much of the game,” said Davey.

“The fact that it is on television is also great for the club, and for rugby in Yorkshire.

“It’s really important that we put on a show and a display of Yorkshire rugby.

“In my two-and-a-half years in Doncaster I’ve been really impressed with what I’ve seen and this is an opportunity to help create an environment where we can bring talent through.”

Leeds Carnegie will finally return to action on home turf after three weeks since they last played at Headingley Carnegie.

Bottom club Esher provide the opposition tomorrow (3pm) with Michael Stephenson returning at full-back and Halani Aulika debuting at prop. Head coach Diccon Edwards said Leeds should take nothing for granted because of Esher’s position.

“Because they are bottom, people assume that we will win,” said Edwards. “But they are a very good side and we had a really tough game against them earlier in the season.”