Always plenty at stake in Flames v Capitals rivalry

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One of the great rivalries in the WNBL resumes on Saturday when the Southern Design Sydney Uni Flames travel down the Hume Highway to face the Canberra TransAct Capitals.

These two teams have engaged in some grand battles in their history and with the race for the 2011/2012 WNBL play-offs one of the closest in years, Saturday’s nationally televised game looms as one of the most crucial of the year.

The Flames returned from the tough Victorian double with a split and will be keen to build on the solid 8-3 start with a victory over the improving Capitals outfit.

Despite a somewhat slow start, the Capitals have built some solid form in recent weeks and enter Saturday’s game still very much in the hunt for a position in the post season.

But anytime the Flames and Capitals clash, records and ladder positions become irrelevant as the rivalry kicks in and the competitive instincts of all players involved come to the fore.

The Sydney Uni team will be without the services of versatile forward Eva Afeaki, after she suffered a season ending injury in the dramatic two point win at Bulleen on Friday.

This will mean the front-line rotation of Amy Denson, Lauren King and Ellyce Ironmonger will have to step up against the in-form Capitals tandem of Marianna Tolo and Brigette Ardossi.

Ardossi has been one of the form players for the Capitals in the last month and her strength and robust play on the glass provide a perfect foil for Opals star Tolo.

On the perimeter, Canberra skipper Jess Bibby returned to form on last weekend’s road double and will no doubt be out for a big one against the Flames.

Sydney Uni guards Alicia Poto and Katie Rae Ebzery enjoyed solid performances in both games in Mebourne and their clash with the dynamic Canberra back court of Bibby and Nicole Hunt will be a highlight.

On the wing, the clash between long-time Opals team-mates Belinda Snell and Carly Wilson will be a classic, with both players key in the chances of their respective teams.

Snell was in sizzling form in the Bulleen win and her ability to score and involve her team-mates with deft passing skills makes her the crucial cog in the Flames offensive machine.

Flames coach Karen Dalton knows the game will be a real test for her group.

“Canberra is one of the elite teams in the league over a long time and we know it will be a big challenge on their home floor,” she said.

“They have great experience and the core of the group has played together in a lot of big games.

“With the tight nature of the league this year, we need to continue to improve and build on a solid start, so the group is looking forward to the challenge on Saturday,” she added.

Saturday’s game will be televised live on ABC Television at 1pm.