Tough call for Junior Sables

HARARE - Zimbabwe's top junior rugby players plying their trade in foreign countries are caught between a rock and a hard place on whether to choose school or country ahead of this year’s Junior World Rugby Trophy.

Zimbabwe will host the eight-team tournament from April 15 to May 2 with the winners set to walk away with the sole ticket to compete at next year’s World Rugby Under-20 Championship.

Several foreign-based players have been included in an extended training squad of 54 players as Zimbabwe pulls all the stops in their efforts to make a lasting impression at the prestigious tournament.

However, a host of the players are still to make a decision amongst them former Zimbabwe Under-18 captain Stephen Bhasera, who is part of the Golden Lions Under-19 set-up in South Africa.

“I may come later; but I’m yet to decide because of school,” Bhasera told the Daily News.

The South Africa-based contingent also includes Sharks Under-19 prop Justin Mendlehson and Free State-based flank Daniel Nyamugama, among others.

Other foreign-based players in the provisional squad include UK’s Nottingham Academy’s centre Andy Musvaburi and scrumhalf Ngoni Zinyama as well as Australia-based forward Tapiwa Mangwana.

“We are encouraging the young men, all we can offer them is an opportunity for them to come and play for their country,” Zimbabwe Rugby Union (ZRU) technical director Brighton Chivandire said.

“We are aware that some of the players might not be released by their universities or clubs.

“There is a concern, but I know most of the players really want to play for their country. There is always a risk, some have school commitments, some are as far as the UK, some parents may say no.”

Chivandire said the Union had since opened lines of communication with the concerned universities for the release of players.

“Some might be writing exams during the period of the tournament, it may not be easy. But we have already written to their schools. We have done this before (for previous tournaments) and schools are always forthcoming,” he said.

The former Junior Sables coach said ZRU was working around the clock to ensure “no parent will have to pay the air ticket for their child to come and play for their country.

“We are working on that. As a Union, we are doing all we can,” he said.

There have been calls to incentivise players during the tournament but Chivandire said given the state of ZRU’s coffers, that may not be possible.

Zimbabwe is in group A along with Fiji, Samoa and Uruguay while Group B consists of Hong Kong, Namibia, Spain and the United States.

A training camp with “fringe” players has since commenced with the full complement of players expected to converge in the capital in March, Junior Sables assistant coach Bob Mahari said yesterday.

Squad

Forwards: J Mendelsohn (Sharks Academy), B Muntanga (Falcon), S Bhasera, T Zhoya (University of Johannesburg), T Chikwezvero (Maritzburg), A Musasanura (CBC), G Mangenje, J Makoni, T Ndaba, P Sora, K Ndoro (Prince Edward), S Magwenzi (Churchill), T Bwerinofa (Kyle), C Butler, C Pritchard (Falcon), R Mubayiwa (SA), A Burnett (St John’s), D Nyamugama (Free State), L Ngwenya (US), T Muchena, K Chisango, L Kenny (St George’s), M Shioma (Limpopo), C Bond (Old Johanians), T Gonese (SA), R Jiri (Dale College, SA), T Mangwana (Aus)

Backs: J Gando (Lomagundi), N Zinyama (UK), C Nyakudya (Falcon), S Katsvere, E Mudzengerere, R Dinha, B Matoramusha (Prince Edward), R Elliot (Durban), T Gamanya (Kyle College), T Moses (Prince Edward), A Bruce, T Mapfumo (St George’s), T Vheriwa (Peterhouse), D McRoberts (UK), K Munangi (Maritzburg), T Ngosi (Durban), F Murinye (Kyle), R Chionyere (Churchill), S Phiri (Falcon), T Maupah (Goldridge), M Ushewokunze (Harare Sports Club), G Mavara (Dale College, SA), T Gochera (SA), M Manhombo (SA), K Kazembe (SA), M Musvaburi (Nottingham Academy)

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