Sita missing from Sables provisional squad

HARARE - The Zimbabwe Rugby Union yesterday submitted a 30-man provisional squad to the Confederation of African Rugby (Car) ahead of the forthcoming 2015 World Cup qualifiers in Madagascar.

The preliminary squad is however shot of five players, with the ZRU explaining in a press release yesterday that “a further five players will be added to this squad, but the Zimbabwe Rugby Union (ZRU) await to finalise the availability of players from their clubs.”

The most notable absentee in the squad sent to the continental rugby body yesterday is Germany-based livewire Manasah Sita, who has not featured for the Sables in two years.

It appears Sita is one of the five players ZRU is hoping to belatedly include in the provisional squad and subsequently the 26-man touring party.

The former Old Hararians and Old Georgians speedster played in a European final for his German club TV Pforzheim in Belgium on Thursday and will also be involved in a Rugby-Bundesliga final on June 21, seven days before the Sables open against hosts Madagascar on June 28.

Also on Zimbabwe’s wish-list is the South African-born twins Guy and Ross Cronje, who have first-class rugby experience for the Golden Lions in South Africa as fly-half and scrumhalf respectively.

The Lions franchise has not yet agreed to release the 24-year-old twins, who trace their family roots to Zimbabwe. 

The England-based trio of centre Sean Moan, lock forward Martin Wolfenden and loose forward Kingsley Lang, who debuted for Zimbabwe in a three-nation tournament in Namibia last November, are also missing and seemingly awaiting confirmation.

Scotland-based flank Shingi Mpofu – who is currently back home and playing for Harare Sports Club during the Scottish Premiership break – is also glaringly missing from the squad.

There were also no places for scrumhalf Charles Jiji, who plays for Hartpury College in the UK. It’s uncertain as to whether Mpofu and Jiji are also on the waiting list, but the two have previously had a bad relationship with the Zimbabwe team management.

The Sables, however, seem to have safely secured the services of two products of the South African system in loose forward Lambert Groenewald and flyhalf Riaan O’Neill.

Golden Lions’ Groenewald, who is equally comfortable at flank or eighthman, has previously played in the Italian Serie A with the Rugby Brescia club and made one Super Rugby appearance for Sharks in 2011.

25-year-old Groenewald is included in the 30-man preliminary squad alongside the youthful but highly-rated Riaan O’Neill, who has captained Wynberg Boys’ High School in Cape Town and represented Sharks Under-20 last year.

O’Neill, alongside former Zimbabwe Under-20 loose forward Graeme Lawler, are the only uncapped players in the 30-member squad released yesterday.

Zimbabwe will play in a qualification tournament in Madagascar against the hosts, Namibia and Kenya between June 26 and July 6. 

The winner of the four-team contest will automatically qualify for world rugby’s greatest showpiece in England next year.

Zimbabwe has not played in the Rugby World Cup since 1991. 

Forwards: Jacques Leitao, Fortune Chipendu, Jan Ferreira, Schalk Ferreira, Lambert Groenewald, Piet Joubert, Graeme Lawler, Matthew Mandioma, Tapiwa Mangezi, Keith Murray, Denford Mutamangira, Royal Mwale, Njabulo Ndlovu, Kevin Nqindi, Michael Passaportis, Andrew Rose, Sanele Sibanda, Nick Winwood.

Backs: Daniel Hondo, Tafadzwa Chitokwindo, Stephan Hunduza, Shayne Makombe, Tichafara Makwanya, Hilton Mudariki, Gardner Nechironga, Tangai Nemadire, Lenience Tambwera, Riaan O’Neill, Gerald Sibanda, Danny Robertson.

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