Sables hope to defy odds

HARARE - Zimbabwe will have to overcome a week-long training camp devoid of any preparatory matches, if they are to beat Kenya this afternoon’s Africa Cup rugby clash at Prince Edward School.

Without a sponsor, the Sables have had to make do with meagre resources, but unlike the financially troubled boycotting Warriors, the rugby XVs side have been putting in the hard hours for nothing else but pride.

Their opponents, Kenya who have an annual sponsorship package of Ksh25 million approximately $275 000 from East Africa Breweries Limited under the Tusker brand, come into today’s encounter on the back of a month-long training camp.

Apart from having had four times as much time to focus on tactical preparation, conditioning and match fine tuning, the Simbas of Kenya are on a high following their recent exploits.

They climbed to a new high in the World Rugby Rankings following their 41-15 win over Portugal in an international test match played on Saturday in Nairobi.

That win moved the East Africans up from 32nd to 29th in the world and fourth in Africa behind South Africa, Namibia and Zimbabwe who are ranked in positions 2, 22 and 28 globally.

Kenya XV’s rugby coach Jerome Paarwater, who is believed to earn around $8 791 month and appears to have an agreement with Kenya Airways for his flying arrangements, believes the Simbas will rattle the Sables.

“Zim has pace but we have the lungs to last (the distance). We are long distance runners so hopefully we can last the whole 80 minutes,” Paarwater said yesterday.

He was, however, still bitter that Zimbabwe foiled Kenya’s chances of qualifying for the 2015 Rugby Cup following their 27-10 loss to the southern African nation last year in July.

“Kenyans and Zim are very great friends and friends normally help each other but Zimbabwe didn’t help us last year when we needed a point to go through to the World Cup,” he humoured.

The 49-year-old, insisted revenge was not his side’s agenda, maintaining that they were focused on building a strong side for the 2019 Rugby World Cup qualifying campaign.

His opposite number Cyprian Mandenge, who basically coaches the Sables on a part time basis and supplements his national duty earnings as a coach for Eaglesvale School, is certain of overcoming Kenya.

Whilst his earnings and the players training allowances and match fees are not anything to write home about, Mandenge feels his side’s hunger for success will see them through.

“Time is never enough, but with the little time we had I’m sure we basically covered everything we needed to cover,” he said.

“Everyone wants to play so that’s a positive. We just have to focus on playing rugby well and everything will fall into place.

“I’m a coach that believes that you have two things you can’t control. You can’t control the opposition and you can control the referee.

“As for how Kenya’s is going to play I’m not worried. We just need to control our patterns in offence and defence.”

Although financially in a better state than Zimbabwe, Kenya rugby is not without its own problems.

In recent months, reports of charges of corruption, lack of integrity and in-fighting within the Kenya Rugby Union and the national teams have dominated rugby news in that country.

However, captain Brian Nyikuli wants his players to focus on the job at hand and get on with the game.

“I have been playing for 10 years so pressure is nothing something that weighs me down,” he said.

Experienced Super Rugby and International Referee Stuart Berry will take charge of today’s game that kicks off at 3pm.

South Africa's Berry will be assisted by Jacky Husselmann and Oscar Lambert, both from Namibia.

Possible Sables Starting XV: 1. Denford Mutamangira (c), 2 Royal Mwale, 3 Farai Mudariki, 4 Sanele Sibanda, 5. Fortune Chipendo, 6. Shingai Mpofu, 7.Andrew Rose, 8. Kingsley Lang, 9. Charles Jiji, 10. Tichafara Makwanya, 11. Stephan Hunduza, 12. Cleopas Makotose, 13. Riaan O'Neill, 14. Tafadzwa Chitokwindo, 15. Tangai Nemadire

Replacements:  16. Kudzai Muzorewa, 17. Lawrence Cleminson, 18. Tatenda Murwira, 19. Bisele Tshamala, 20. Boyd Rouse, 21. Gardner Nechironga, 22. Lenience Tambwera, 23.Peter Joubert.

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