Sables ring changes for old nemesis Namibia

HARARE - Zimbabwe have made two tactical changes from the team that hammered Madagascar 55-27 on Saturday for Wednesday’s second World Cup qualifiers clash with rivals Namibia in Antananarivo.

Hooker Simba Mandioma replaces Old Georgians club mate Keith Murray in the front row while Njabulo Ndlovu comes in at blind-side flank for Graeme Lawler, who impressed on debut against the hosts.

Apart from the two changes, there is still no place in the team for gifted backliner Danny Robertson, who does not appear on the match day squad list for the second time.

Wednesday the Sables face a wounded lion in the Namibians, who suffered a shock 29-22 defeat to an ever improving Kenyan side on Saturday.

A win for Zimbabwe against the Namibians, who have a better record in head-to-head play, will take the Sables a step closer in their quest to qualify for their first Rugby World Cup since 1991.

The 2015 World Cup will take place in England.

Zimbabwe technical adviser and head selector Liam Middleton yesterday said the two changes to the starting line-up, and Robertson’s continued absence, were tactical.

“It’s very much a case of horses for courses,” Middleton told the Daily News from Madagascar.

“Madagascar, Namibia and Kenya are all very different teams. We feel that Simba Mandioma and Njabulo Ndlovu will bring the carrying ability that we feel will work for us in the first half. Keith Murray and Graeme Lawler both played well in the first game, so this so this is a tactical change. As in the change of Robertson for (Gerald) Sibanda.”

While Kenya are the form team following their defeat of Namibia, it is the later who have always been a stumbling block to Zimbabwe’s World Cup aspirants in the last four editions of the William Webb Ellis Trophy.

The Welwitschias have also dominated Zimbabwe outside the World Cup qualifiers.

In recent times, Zimbabwe were outmuscled 37-33 in 2012 before going down 35-26 last year.

In both defeats, the Sables struggled to defend around the ruck area and committed a lot of men at contact area when defending, which resulted in Namibia having acres of space and series of overlaps.

Namibia constantly breached at first phase, which is a worrying factor heading into Wednesday’s encounter.

The Sables start the match as underdogs and will be hoping to turn their fortunes around.

Zimbabwe’s technical bench has reacted to this by loading the forwards pack with mostly ball carriers, aiming to neutralise the Namibians, who like to carry the ball a lot and suck in defenders.

Mandioma is a strong runner who adds value in the looses due to his penchant to play more like a flank.

In the backline, Zimbabwe kept faith with the same personnel and hope they can replicated last game’s performance, especially flyhalf  Guy Cronje, whose kicking technique will be needed in pining down the opposition back three.

Zimbabwe will need to front up in defence and make double tackles to prevent offloads. They also need to work hard at the breakdown when securing their own ball, where the Welwitchias tend to be very physical and like to kill the source for clean ball for the opposition.

This blockbuster match, to be broadcast live on Supersport 9 starting midday, is likely to go down to the wire.


Starting XV: 15. Tangai Nemadire, 14. Tafadzwa Chitokwindo, 13.  Daniel Hondo (capt), 12. Riaan O’Neill, 11. Stephan Hunduza, 10. Guy Cronje, 9. Hilton Mudariki, 8. Lambert Groenewald, 7. Jacques Leitao (v/capt), 6. Njabulo Ndlovu, 5. Sanele Sibanda, 4. Jan Ferreira, 3. Kevin Nqindi, 2. Simba Mandioma, 1. Denford Mutamangira.

Replacements: 16. Keith Murray, 17. Piet Joubert, 18. Lawrence Clemenson, 19. Graeme Lawler, 21. Peter Du Toit, 22. Lenience Tambwera, 23. Gerald Sibanda.

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