Dawson focuses on breakdown, ruck

HARARE - Zimbabwe rugby coach Brendan Dawson believes his side’s breakdown play and ruck technique is a key area they’ll need to improve ahead of the Sables’ World Cup qualifiers in Madagascar at the end of the month.

Dawson presided over the team’s first field training session at St John’s College in Harare yesterday morning and expressed satisfaction with the way players responded to training.

“It’s really good to be back (at training),” Dawson told reporters.

“The guys are looking really good, sharp and really excited. The intensity was there at the training session today (yesterday), so I was happy with that.

“It’s our first day really, Monday was reserved for the fitness test and today is our first on the field, doing contact work. I’m pretty happy with everyone’s concentration which I thought was exceptional.”

Dawson’s men travel 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.

“In the afternoon (yesterday) we will be working a bit more on the structured roles, specifically on the line-outs, backline play and will carry on with the rucking,” he added.

“Rucking is an important part of the game and we need to make sure we dominate the ruck area; breakdowns are also important at this level so we need to work on that if we are to do well in Madagascar.”

The areas raised by Dawson will be critical, especially against their better prepared opponents.

Dawson’s men will need to show a tremendous capacity to limit their opponents' attacking opportunities by slowing down the ball at the breakdown in all three tests.

On paper, Zimbabwe looks like they have the back-row quality to achieve that, in a department that appears their strongest link with such players as flankers Jacques Leitao, Andrew Rose and Njabulo Ndlovu alongside eighthmen Takunda Chifokoyo and Kingsley Lang all vying for slots in the loose trio.

Winning on the floor will also give the Sables’ attack space and more time to play off the front foot as well as tiring the opposition.

Meanwhile, the South Africa-based trio of flyhalf Lenience Tamberwa, prop Kevin Nqindi and Sanile lock Sanele Sibanda also took part in the training after arriving on Monday evening.

The Golden Lions pair of half-back Guy Cronje and flank Lambert Groenewald are expected to jet in tonight after they were given the green light by the Johannesburg franchise to turn out for their country of origin.

Both were born in South Africa, but trace their family roots to Zimbabwe.

Scotland-based flank Andrew Rose, who has been battling a calf injury, sat out yesterday’s training session.

Dawson said of Rose: “Obviously every player is a key guy for us to win this tournament, but I’m sure he will be alright, he will come right.”

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