Sables must strengthen forwards pack

HARARE - Zimbabwe's rugby team will be hoping for a change of fortune when they travel to Dubai early next month to take part in the Emirates Airline Cup of Nations.

The Sables will travel to the United Arab Emirates on the back of two test defeats to Namibia and Spain, their first losses in more than two years.

Brendan Dawson’s men will play Hong Kong on December 8 before taking on Belgium three days later. They will conclude the tour against hosts UAE three days later.

Two of their opponents, Belgium (23) and Hong Kong (28) are ranked above the Sables, who are placed 30th, in world rankings.

In recent times, the Sables have relied heavily on their backline, which boasts a lot of speedsters and skilful players, but with no clean ball from the forwards, the backline cannot function well.

In Namibia, the Sables struggled upfront with their inexperienced forwards pack, which was bullied at set pieces in both games.

The forwards department needs agent attention and must be beefed up ahead of the Dubai trip.

Belgium and Hong Kong are both semi-professional outfits — both have competitive domestic leagues and have a much larger pool of players.

They are expected to give the Sables a stern test.

Rugby in Belgium has been on the rise in the European country and this year they recorded one of their best seasons as the finished top of the European Cup of Nations 1B, gaining promotion to the ENC 1A for 2013.

Like the Sables, they will be making their debut at the Emirates Airline Cup of Nations. They have never faced any African opposition in their history, which could be a plus for the Sables as they can hit them with the element of surprise.

The Hong Kong team is largely composed of British expatriates.

They are a very technically team, like to detect the pace a lot and are rarely physically.

If the Sables can manage to protect their own ball, spread it widely and play a running game, they can cause an upset.  

The hosts UAE currently do not have a ranking.  

They can be beaten should the Sables not underestimate them, and they will cope better with the home conditions, which is very humid and hot. - Brian Matamba

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