'Survival of fittest' for Sables

HARARE - Zimbabwe rugby team fitness guru Grant Mitchell has raised concern over the players’ fitness level ahead of month-end’s World Cup qualification tournament in Madagascar.

The players went through a fitness test during first day of camp at Innovative High Performance Centre in Harare yesterday under the watchful eye of the former Zimbabwe Sevens star.

A host of foreign-based players went through the mandatory camp-opening fitness check together with their local-based counterparts. Among the foreign flavour was the Scotland-based trio of Denford Mutamangira, Gerald Sibanda and Andrew Rose, France-based Michael Passaportis, former Ireland Under-20 star Peter Du Toit alongside South Africa-based trio Gardner Nechironga, Shayne Makombe and Simba Mandioma.

Three more SA-based players, prop Kevin Nqindi, lock Sanele Sibanda and uncapped flank Lambert Groenewald, were expected to arrive in the country last night to complete the foreign-based contingent.

27 players were presented yesterday.

Leading the local-based cast was captain Daniel Hondo, his deputy Jacques Leitao, experienced lock forward Fortune Chiepndo as well as backliners Tangai Nemadire,  Danny Robertson, Stephan Hunduza and Tafadzwa Chitokwindo.

“Day one is always a tricky one with regards to assessing players because they’re some guys coming from outside the country and you got obviously locally-based players that are sort of comfortable in this environment,” Mitchell told reporters yesterday.

“What’s going to happen is we will separate those who have been training and those who have not been training and you can see that the guys who have put in hard work consistently over the last six to nine months, their consistency is showing; which is positive and can only be good for the squad.”

Mitchell also expressed worry over the limited time the squad has to prepare for the crunch qualifiers.

“It’s difficult do it (fitness) in a 10-12-day camp because there is a lot to fit in from a technical perspective. The fitness, the strength and conditioning, that’s what you expect to be done prior to coming into camp,” added Mitchell.

“But those players who have consistently applied are the ones who are showing their worth from a strength and conditioning perspective and I hope they get selected because they have done their work. Those that are not of the required standard, I hope they are sound athletes and can develop in these 10 to 12 days and put their hand up for selection. Looking at the squad, a third won’t make it, but that’s the nature of it. It’s the survival of the fittest.” 

Zimbabwe are aiming to qualify for their first World Cup in more than 20 years.

Brendan Dawson’s men head to Madagascar for the qualifiers to face the hosts, Namibia and Kenya in a four-nation Africa Cup contest, whose winner automatically qualifies for next year’s World Cup in England.

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