Zim call up Lions twin prodigies

HARARE - Zimbabwe, who host their final phase of selection on Saturday to whittle down their 2013 season squad, have called-up South African-born twin halfbacks Guy and Ross Cronje – a clear indication of their determination to qualify for the 2015 World Cup.

The Zimbabwe Rugby Union (ZRU) yesterday released an enlarged squad of 67 players which will be split into two for a Possibles versus Probables match at Old Hararians on Saturday, culminating in the selection of a core squad for the season.

The 24-year-old twins are rated highly at Johannesburg franchise Lions, who they joined from Sharks at the end of 2011.

The Cronje twins, who trace their Zimbabwean roots through their paternal grandparents, started their first game together for the 2011 Currie Cup champions hosted the Cheetahs in a pre-season fixture at Ellis Park in January.

Ross is a scrumhalf while Guy is a flyhalf.

“They have expressed willingness to play for us,” Sables manager Losson Mtongwiza told the Daily News yesterday.

“According to IRB rules, they qualify to play for us. Their grandparents were born here, and their father played for Rhodesia B before 1980.”

Several Zimbabwean-born players have been capped by South Africa, but movement in the opposite direction has been far-in-between. With the Sables profile growing again and competition for Springbok places becoming increasingly tough, the Cronje twins reckon their test career lie elsewhere.

Zimbabwe’s bloated squad is a mix of experience and youth, with several uncapped players eager to impress head coach Brendan Dawson and his technical staff ahead of next week’s South Africa first-class tour as well as the Sables’ defence of their Africa Cup title in Madagascar in July.

Some of the players included in the big squad will not feature in Saturday’s trials because they are based outside the country. But Mtongwiza was quick to point out that such players – who include Germany-based utility back Manasah Sita, Scottish rugby title-winning prop Denford Mutamangira and England-based front row Nick Winwood – are proven professionals who hardly need a relook.

“If you send out a list and didn’t include them, they were going to think they are not being considered.  Whenever they make themselves available or whenever they are in the country, we will include them straight away,” Mtongwiza said.

Leading the cast of uncapped players is Old Georgians loose forward Andrew Rose, the former Scotland youth international who has briefly returned home to Zimbabwe and is keen to be part of the England 2015 dream.

Another notable inclusion of the uncapped contingent is the country’s highest-earning rugby player, Garth Ziegler, who turns out for French Top 14 side Bayonne. Ziegler has represented Zimbabwe Sevens level, but is uncapped at XVs.

Meanwhile, the Sables have been dealt a forwards pack blow after eighthman Takunda Chifokoyo, one of their heroes from last year’s Africa Cup success, was ruled out for several months due to a hand injury.

Star fullback Danny Robertson has taken up a coaching job at his former school Peterhouse College and has not played league rugby this year, resulting in his omission.

The major casualties from the squad are the pair of experienced back and former captain Cleopas Makotose and eighthman Norman Mukondiwa, who appear to have fallen out of favour with the coaches.

Scrumhalf Scottie Jones, impressive for the Sables last year, has quit rugby to concentrate on his business in Kadoma.  His place will be contested by Ross Cronje, while speedy winger Kilvan Magunje has been converted into scrumhalf in line with his Sevens role.

The Sables will open their season with a tour of South Africa next month, where they will play the Pumas, Valke and Limpopo Blue Bulls on June 8, 12 and 15 respectively.

ENLARGED SQUAD


Chilliboy Nhepera, Tatenda Murwira, Tatenda Gwesu, Tinashe Bopoto, Takudzwa Bvunzawabaya, Rees Surtees, Zvikomborero Murangari, Antipas Kamukwindo, Costa Dinha, Tawanda Chowe, Jacques Leitao, Andrew Rose, Phil Machisa, Boyd Rous, Stephen Hunduza, Wes Mbanje, Michael Fox-Morris, Gavin Nyawata, Shane Makombe, Craig Elcombe, Takudzwa Mutataguta, Paul Kamwemba, Kilvan Magunje, Lloyd Machanjaira, Jafet Ndebele, Lucky Sithole, Tapiwa Mangezi, Fortune Chipendo, Lungile Tshuma, Jan Ferreira, Jakov Jakov, Jonathan Goosen, Scott Flowers, Samson Makuku, Tich Chitongo, Tichafara Makwanya, Daniel Hondo, Gardner Nechironga, Tangai Nemadire, Boxer Nyawata, Ryan Sprake, Kuda Chiwanza, Pieter Joubert, Kudakwashe Kambasha, Tafadzwa Bepura, Ashley Mabhena, Raymond Dzvairo, Farai Jijita, Sean Chigumbura, Shingi Mpofu, Lenience Tambwera, Nick Winwood, Denford Mutamangira, Takudzwa Mandiwanza, Brian Makamure, Garth Ziegler, Njabulo Ndlovu, Tapiwa Tsomondo, Tafadzwa Chitokwindo, Keith Murray, Tatenda Karuru, Sanele Sibanda, Simba Bwanya, Ross Cronje, Guy Cronje, Manasah Sita, Gerald Sibanda.

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