How the Sables should line up

HARARE - Zimbabwe's preparations for month-end’s World Cup qualifiers stepped up a gear with a Possibles versus Probables clash at Harare Sports Club on Friday evening, giving the coaches a chance to weigh options in the only opportunity the Sables will have to real-match situation before the Madagascar trip.

Not the best possible preparations you can imagine, but Friday’s match did lay some scepticism to rest.

The talent on display at HSC brought a sense of excitement among the few hundreds of fans who braved the chilly weather, with many leaving the stadium somewhat convinced that the job can be done in Madagascar after all.

It is now up to Brendan Dawson and his wisemen to put the final pieces to the jigsaw puzzle, starting from the forwards to backline. 

In the forwards department, the biggest worry is lack of depth in the front row, where the numbers seem to be very thin when it comes to props.  The Sables only have three experienced props in Denford Mutangamira, Pieter Joubert and Tapiwa Mangezi.

The coach is however spoilt for choice in the second row and loose forwards, possessing some strong ball carriers and menaces at the deck, competent at inflicting turnovers at the breakdown.

Also, tall jumpers Schalk Ferreira and Michael Passaportis have the height and frame of world-class locks.

Eighthman Lambert Groenwald showed his powerful ball carriers as he carried the ball several times on Friday and he could be our go to man in Madagascar to absorb pressure from opponents and also in getting vital yards.

Lions half-back Guy Cronje initially struggled in the number 10 jersey in Friday’s game. He was very flat and failed to click with the centres. Cronje only came to life when he was shifted to scrumhalf, where he dictated proceedings with his immaculate passes and good ball distribution.

His urgency at the base of the ruck when recycling the ball is something the Sables can use to their advantage  when they face Namibia, who like to be physical at the breakdown and are good at disrupting opponents’ clean balls.

As a nation we thrive a lot on clean ball as our biggest strength is their quicksliver backline. Cronje at number 9, partnering Valke’s latest recruit Lenience Tambwera at flyhalf could be a match made in heaven.

Tambwera has gained experience over the years and is one flyhalf who could  relate to Cronje’s swiftness as he also like to play a high tempo game which could be handy given the quick and prolific backline players the Sables  have at their disposal, such as Gardner Nechironga and Tangai Nemadire.

The other recognised scrummie, Hilton Mudariki, has come of age and showed he is not yet ready to relinquish his position.  The two-time capped Sable made several dots on Friday. His ability to interlink with the eighthman makes him unpredictable. He is brilliant at punching holes in the challenger’s defence mechanism.  Mudariki could be another choice at half-back to play along with Tambwera.

Dawson and his technical team’s biggest crisis is in midfield, where they is only one outright centre, skipper Daniel Hondo. The question is, who is going to partner the Harare Sports Club maestro in the absence of veteran Cleopas Makotese, who had formed a formidable combination with Hondo?

This is a big question for the Sables’ depth, having to play three tough tests in a space of a week.

The recovery time between games is very little and with no cover at all for centres, it presents a huge problem as the bulk of the backline players in the squad are wings who are vulnerable in defence.

Most wings can’t cope up with toughness and defensive responsibilities required at centre. Dawson might be forced to play Danny Robertson at outside centre and move Tangai Nemadire to fullback. Roberston is decent in defence, having previously partnered Hondo in that department.

Whatever combinations they come up with, the Sables will dare to dream. The destiny is in their hands.

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