Sables' moment of truth

HARARE - With Zimbabwe national rugby team's hope of staying in Africa Cup Group 1A hinging on today's result, Cyprian Mandenge has called on his charges to dig deep and rise above inadequate preparations and low incentives to beat a highly motivated Uganda side.

The Sables hosts the Cranes t the Police Grounds at Morris Depot this afternoon. Kick-off is 3:30pm. 

The Cranes will be no pushovers and are intent on building on their closely fought 40-31 opening loss to a vastly improving Namibia.

Both sides need a win today if they are to survive the dreaded drop into Africa Cup Group B, from where the relegated team will need to win next year’s 1B tournament to play in the 1A 2018 group for the last round of the 2019 Rugby World Cup Qualifiers.

But Mandenge, who watched as his hapless side was put to the sword 61-15 by Kenya a fortnight ago, does not think his team, which only a year ago was on the verge of World Cup qualification, has dropped that low.

“I am very confident,” he said yesterday.

“There were a lot of issues surrounding last game and we are happy that has been resolved.

“We had to prevent a lot of negative energy before we got into that game but we have resolved that,” he said in reference to low morale and player unrest.

“The players are fit and excited to be doing their bit.”

The technical team has made several changes by bringing in utility Lungile Tshuma, lock Sanele Sibanda, hookers Keith Murray and Matthew Mandioma, centre Ngoni Chibuwe and scrum half Hilton Mudariki.

“I have a balanced side. I am happy with that. Of cause some guys are injured and others were not released by their clubs but I am confident in the side I have,” Mandenge said.

Sables captain Denford Mutamangira, who trudged off the pitch with a knock in the opening minutes of the Sables match against Kenya, was upbeat fans will see a different side to that of two weeks ago.

“It's work in progress as players we have a reputation and a brand to protect and that is what we are aiming to do,” he said.

“We are aware we can't afford to lose this game that's why we are focused.”

The Cranes, on the other hand are fancying their chances of piling more misery on Zimbabwe while aiding their cause to avoid relegation.

“We are comfortable and confident,” said Uganda captain Brian Odongo.

“The mood in the camp is great. I can't ask for more. The players are raring to go and ready to play their hearts out.”

Unlike Zimbabwe, who have had to make do with hastily arranged preparations for their Africa Cup ties, Uganda have been putting in the hard hours on and off the pitch.

And coach John Duncan believes the side's 10-days of training in South Africa and the two international build-up games have put them in good stead ahead of today's tie.

“We are excited expecting a big clash tomorrow,” the South African-born coach said.

“We have been training hard and putting in a lot of work.

“We have a young team of an average of 23 and 24 years old, we are building and we need to stay in Group 1A.”

Meanwhile, off the pitch the underfunded Sables will at least have some joy in as far as their dress code is concerned.

The side will be dressed by Edgars, who yesterday came on board by providing chinos, jackets and shirts for the team.

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