Selection options excite ZRU

HARARE - Zimbabwe Rugby Union (ZRU) director of rugby Liam Middleton is encouraged by the prospects of securing players who have not featured for the national side for an extended period as well as three top-notch South African-born stars.

Europe-based wings Manasah Sita and Gerald Sibanda, who have not played for the Sables in more than two years, were last month included in an enlarged 57-man squad ahead of July’s crucial World Cup qualification tournament in Madagascar.

Utility backs Sita and Sibanda ply their trade in the Germany and Scotland top-flight leagues respectively, where they have quickly developed into top-class players who can bolster the country’s chances of qualifying for its first Rugby World Cup in two decades.

“Both are available for selection, Gerry is actually in Zim at the moment and is in our plans,” Middleton, who also heads the selection panel, said yesterday.

“Then there is also Shayne Makombe in the wing department. He was voted Best Backline in the Varsity Shield in South Africa last year. He was disappointed not to travel to Namibia last November (for the Windhoek Draught tri-nations), but he has worked hard to be considered for national selection.”

Also back in contention is the talented but often erratic fullback Danny Robertson, who is back in action with local league champions Old Hararians after a self-imposed sabbatical.

“He’s in the training squad and is making progress. He is a good rugby player,” said Middleton of Robertson.

“He’s committed to the cause. No guarantee (for selection), but he is training hard and playing well.”

ZRU is also looking to spread the net wide, and is trying to lure three South African-born players in the form of Golden Lions trio Lambert Groenewald alongside twin brothers Guy (flyhalf) and Ross (scrumhalf) Cronje. All three have Zimbabwean roots.

The 24-year-old twins have noteworthy Currie Cup experience for the Joburg-based franchise Lions while 25-year-old Groenewald – who can play at flank or eighthman – made one Super Rugby appearance for Sharks in 2011 and has also seen action in the Currie Cup and Vodacom Cup.

“We are waiting for confirmation on the Cronje brothers. Both are keen and eligible. We are just waiting for confirmation from the Golden Lions on whether they can release them,” said Middleton.

“Groenewald, we have been told by the Golden Lions that he is available.”

ZRU is now expected to submit a 35-man provisional squad to the Confederation of African Rugby on Tuesday after the deadline was extended from yesterday.

“The 35 is going to be difficult to select, so will be the final 26,” Middleton said. “Some good players will be disappointed not to travel to Madagascar, but that’s a good sign, it shows that there is competition.”

Comments (1)


anesu gumise - 28 May 2014

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