Make-or-break for Sables

HARARE - Zimbabwe this afternoon step into the cauldron of the Central Stadium in Krasnoyarsk, Siberia, for a crucial Rugby World Cup qualification play-off against Russia.

Despite missing a couple of their regulars in their team, the Sables are in a buoyant mood that they can cause an upset and go on to reach their first World Cup in more than two decades.

In the absence of robust prop Denford Mutangamira who did not travel with the team to Russia, Old Georgians prop Pieter Joubert is the likely candidate to start at loose-head prop.

The rest of the forwards pack will unlikely be unchanged by coach Brendon Dawson.

The Sables forwards were dominate in their Africa Zone qualifiers in Madagascar in July, reigning supreme against Kenya and Madagascar and literally won almost all their scrums.

Dawson will be hoping they can replicate that performance against the Russians and lay the platform and a lot of clean ball for the potent backline to attack.

The technical team will also pin their hopes on their loose trio to give them go forward ball as they are strong ball carriers, especially eighthman Lambart Groenewald, who likes to attack the line.

In the backline department, the only change might be the inclusion of versatile fullback Danny Roberston, who is very capable of filling in Tangai Nemadire’s shoes. Nemadire declined to travel.

Robertson is very calm under the high ball and dangerous on the counter. He has that element of surprise which could hurt the Bears if they chose to employ a kicking game. Robertson, who was sidelined in Madagascar, also possesses a massive boot which is needed when clearing the line.

Centre Riaan O’ Neill has grown in leaps and bounds it’s hard to believe he only has three test caps. O’Neill has some superb running lines has the ability to open up any defence.

Whatever way this match goes, it’s likely to boil down who wants it the most on the day.

Probable line-up: 15. Danny Robertson, 14. Tafadzwa Chitokwindo, 13. Daniel Hondo (captain), 12. Riaan O’Neill, 11. Stephan Hunduza, 10. Guy Cronje, 9. Hilton Mudariki, 8. Lambert Groenewald, 7. Jacques Leitao (vice-captain), 6. Graeme Lawler, 5. Sanele Sibanda, 4. Jan Ferreira, 3. Kevin Nqindi, 2. Keith Murray, 1. Pieter Joubert.

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