Bumper, balanced squad for Sables

HARARE - Zimbabwe rugby coach Brendan Dawson has stuck to his policy of mixing experience with youth following the announcement of an enlarged Sables provisional squad to play in two invitational tournaments in Namibia and Dubai in the next two months.

The Sables squad announced after the National Rugby League final at the weekend include most of the players who won the African title in Tunisia in June.

In pursuit of consistency, Dawson also retained most of the players from the Tunisia tournament.

The most notable absence are prop Denford Mutamangira and flank Shingi Mpofu, who are now plying their trade in the Scottish top flight, as well as former captain Cleopas Makotose and utility forward Prayer Chitenderu, who have been sidelined by injuries in recent weeks.

Of the 40-man provisional squad, 18 are uncapped at test level. While only a few might be given the nod for the two tours, Dawson and his technical staff have continued to put extreme faith in young players in the country’s quest to build a capable group of players qualifying for the 2015 World Cup in England.

10 of the rookies – Biselele Tshamala, Lucky Sithole, Kudakwashe Makuvire, Tinashe Bopoto, Sean Chigumbura, Justin Coles, Tafadzwa Chitokwindo, Jamie Forrester, Graham Kaulback and Johnno McWade are former Zimbabwe youth internationals.

Tshamala has been in terrific form on the domestic front for Matabeleland Warriors and had been knocking on the Sables’ door for quite a while now.

In the absence of senior loose forward Shingi Mpofu, Tshamala is likely to make the touring party.

Anticipating that Namibia, Spain and SA Buffaloes will be physical and will likely use their huge forwards to their advantage, Dawson has chosen not to gamble in this area.

He has gone for experienced and chosen seasoned players like captain Costa Dinha (who regularly plays lock though) Jacques Leitao, Jan Ferreira and Norman Mukondiwa, bracing for a tough battle upfront.

In the backline department, he has rewarded some of the consistent performers in the NRL such as the Harare Sports Club duo of centre Simbarashe Chirimuta and wing Stephen Hunduza.

The selectors have also retained veterans like utility backs Gardner Nechironga, Tangai Nemadire and former captain Daniel Hondo. The backs have always been the mainstay of the Sables in recent times.

Meanwhile, the Sables will be without their international Sevens players for the Dubai tour as it clashes with the second leg of the whirlwind IRB World Sevens Series in Port Elizabeth.

Sables manager Losson Mtongwiza said the announcement of a big provisional squad was in reaction to this development.

“There are actually 12 players we are looking at who are not on this (provisional Sables) list,” Mtongwiza told the Daily News yesterday.

“We are looking for funds to see if we can bring them over and assess them.”

Senior Sables such as forwards Jacques Leitao and Fortune Chipendo as well as backs Daniel Hondo, Gardner Nechironga and Wes Mbanje are also key players for the national Sevens side, the Cheetahs.

Mtongwiza was however unfazed by the Sevens contingent’s absence from the Dubai trip.

“It’s an opportunity for us to find new players to strengthen and expand the squad. The game has been evolving. Look at Australia and how many injuries they had, but they continued playing. We need to have a strong squad if we are going to challenge for the World Cup.”

PROVISIONAL SABLES SQUAD


Forwards: Costa Dinha (captain), Tatenda Karuru, Piet Joubert, Jan Ferreira, Jacques Leitao, Norman Mukondiwa, Brian Makamure, Jakov Jakov, Fortune Chipendu, Takunda Chifokoyo, Tapiwa Mangezi, Lucky Sithole, Biselele Tshamala, Tolerance Zishe, Tinashe Bopoto, Vakai Hove, Jonathan Goosen, Kudakwashe Makuvire, Zvikomborero Murangari, Sean Chigumbura, Royal Mwale.

Backs: Scotty Jones, Tichafara Makwanya, Kudakwashe Chiwanza, Daniel Hondo, Gardner Nechironga, Tangai Nemadire, Lenience Tambwera, Simba Chirimuta, Danny Robertson, Stephen Hunduza, Phil Machisa, Gavin Nyawata, Justin Coles, Graham Kaulback, Tafadzwa Chitokwindo, Johnathan McWade, Wes Mbanje, Jafet Ndebele, Jamie Forrester, Rory Jackson. - Brian Matamba

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