Rivalries between neighboring countries are generally passionate and the one between Holland’s Dutch Lions and the Belgian Barbarians is no different. It is heated.
This Saturday, the two nations tangle for the second time in two years at Mandemakers Stadium in Waalwijk, Holland as they battle for the final berth in the IFAF Europe Group B tournament in 2016. Both teams are coming off losses in tune-up games for this one.
Holland was held scoreless in a 12-0 loss to Switzerland while Belgium dropped a 27-20 decision to Team Poland in September. The Barbarians had beaten Slovakia earlier in the summer 40-22 and so have had a good opportunity to evaluate their team.
However, Holland will be a slightly different team than the one which lost to Switzerland. Two members of the German Bowl winning Braunschweig New Yorker Lions will be on the field Saturday. Receiver Tom van Duijn returns after playing for a season in Germany. He is joined by his teammate from the Lions and German Bowl MVP Evan Landi. Landi has had an outstanding season in Germany playing with a Dutch passport (his mother is Dutch) and will cap it by being able to don the national colors of the Netherlands.
The Dutch Lions coaching staff is more than pleased with the addition:
“He’s a tight end, with the style of Jimmy Graham. He’s from South Florida, but has been under contract with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New England Patriots. He has a Dutch mother, also a Dutch passport. He himself had not yet thought about the windfall following his official papers, but he is certainly eligible to play and up for the challenge. “
Quarterback Richard Bouthoorn will have two additional key weapons in his arsenal as he takes the field Saturday. The blitz-happy Belgians may have a more difficult time playing man to man with both Landi and van Duijin on the field.
With running back Chris Smith still hurt Holland will rely on a trio of running backs in Miquel Castelen (Crusaders), Kevin Wesseling (Trojans) and Glenn Gorcum.
The defensive keys to the Dutch Lions are linebacker Kevin Bourne who was a beast against Switzerland and defensive lineman Nick Meijers. They will make it tough on Belgium’s running game led by Arkadi Meerschout, Rudy Mwamba and Carmeo Insalaco who will have to find a way to deal with these two. Quarterback Tomasz Firszt will have to keep plays alive with his feet as Bourne & co. will be attacking Belgium’s short passing game.
Receivers Mike Schoonheyt and Ruben De Ruyter will have to find ways to get open quickly to give Firszt time. Center Daren Wonke will be a key figure in this game as the offensive line will be under more pressure than they have seen this year.
On defense Belgium relies on defensive lineman Stijn Dossche who played in Germany for the Marburg Mercenaries before moving back to Belgium with the Ostend Pirates. Linebacker Frederic Casteels plays in the GFL2 in Germany with the Cologne Crocodiles. Linebacker Nick Vanhee has also played well in the past two games.
The winner of this game will move on the play in the 2016 IFAF Europe Group B tournament, joining Italy, Great Britain, Switzerland, Serbia, Israel, Russia and the Czech Republic.