New-look Sables face Namibia

HARARE - Zimbabwe has named four new caps, all from Matabeleland Warriors, in the starting team to face Namibia in today’s Windhoek Lager Tri-Nation Series opener at Hage Geingob National Rugby Stadium in Windhoek.

All four debutants are in the forwards with flankers Biselele Tshamala and Lucky Tshuma completing a new-look loose trio with Old Hararians eighth-man Takunda Chifokoyo.

It is a vastly inexperienced back row for the Sables in the absence of the regular combination of Norman Mukondiwa, Jacques Leitao and Shingi Mpofu.

The other two new caps in the side are front rowers Tapiwa Mangezi, who will start at tight-head and hooker Royal Mwale. Old Georgians vice-captain Piet Joubert comes in at loose-head prop.

The only tried-and-tested combination in the forwards pack is the second row pairing of captain Costa Dinha and Warriors lock Jan Ferreira, who combined exceptionally well to help the Sables win the African rugby title back in June.

While the lack of experience in the forwards pack is a cause for great concern for the Sables technical bench, the backline, acknowledged by head coach Brendan Dawson as the team’s strongest department, looks a well-oiled machine on paper despite a few positional changes.  

Speed merchant Wes Mbanje gets the nod on the left wing on his return to test rugby following a three-year absence, while his fellow Bulawayo-born flyer Gardner Nechironga claims his place on the right side of the wing.

Together with wings Mbanje and Nechironga, Tangai Nemadire at fullback is expected to complete the Sables’ back three.

On his return from injury, Danny Robertson moves from fullback to outside centre to partner Harare Sports Club captain Daniel Hondo in midfield.

Old Hararians skipper Tichafara Makwanya reclaims the number 10 shirt from emerging flyhalf Lenience Tambwera while the ever-improving Scotty Jones starts at scrumhalf.

The Sables, the lowest ranked of the three teams in the tri-series, will then take on Spain on Wednesday to complete the whistle-stop tour.

Meanwhile Namibia, who are ranked number 22 in the world seven places above Zimbabwe, have also named their starting line- up. Eight uncapped players make up their match-day squad.

The Namibian team will be captained by experienced eighth man PJ van Lill for their opening match against Zimbabwe today, but only includes eight players who represented Namibia at last year’s Rugby World Cup.

The starting XV match have a combined total of 84 test caps at an average of only five to six per player.

Namibia is especially inexperienced among the forwards with only Van Lill, prop Johnny Redelinghuys and flanker Renaud van Neel remaining from the World Cup. Top forwards like Jacques Burger, Rohan Kitshoff and Morné Blom were not available due to injury or club commitments, while Namibia suffered a further setback when experienced lock Nico Esterhuizen got injured during training.


Zimbabwe: 15 – Tangai Nemadire, 14 – Gardner Nechironga, 13 – Danny Robertson, 12 – Daniel Hondo, 11 – Wes Mbanje, 10 – Tichafara Makwanya 9 – Scotty Jones, 8 – Takunda Chifokoyo, 7 – Lucky Sithole, 6 – Biselele Tshamala, 5 – Jan Ferreira, 4 – Costa Dinha (captain), 3 – Piet Joubert, 2 – Royal Mwale, 1 – Tapiwa Mangezi.

Reserves: 16 – Tino Chikobvu, 17 – Vakai Hove, 18 – Fortune Chipendo, 19 – Samson Makuku, 20 – Lenience Tambwera, 21 – Shayne Makombe, 22 – Phil Machisa.

Namibia: 15 – Justin Nel, 14 – Johan Tromp, 13 – Danie van Wyk, 12 – Darryl de la Harper, 11 – Chrysander Botha, 10 – Theuns Kotze, 9 – Eugene Jantjies, 8 – PJ Van Lill (captain), 7 – Munee Tjuiza, 6 – Renaud van Neel,  5 – Stefan Neustadt, 4 – Muinjo Kasaringwa, 3 – Andre Schlechter, 2 – Rathony Bekker, 1 – Johnny Redelinghuys.

Reserves: 16 – Collen Smith, 17 – Hannes Dursewei, 18 – Stef Botha, 19 – Victor Rodrigues, 20 – Arthur Bouwer, 21 – Sergio de la Harpe, 22 – Desmond Snyders.

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