Youthful Sables face Namibia
THE last time the Sables were in Windhoek, they suffered an historic 80-6 thumping at the hands of hosts Namibia and exactly a year on the Zimbabwe rugby side are back in the lion’s den. Zimbabwe have lost both their opening games in the Africa Cup to Kenya and Uganda at home and have been relegated to the less prestigious Group 1B, their final game against Namibia coming as a dead rubber this time around. Coach Cyprian “Supa” Mandenge has put faith in junior players, and only three players from last year’s starting XV made it for the trip to Namibia as Zimbabwe prepare for life in Group 1B next year.
Only captain Denford Mutamangira, lock Biselele Tshamala and flyhalf Lenience Tambwera — who scored Zimbabwe’s six points in last year’s encounter — have been retained in the starting XV while prop Brian Makamure, scrummy Charles Jiji and Stephan Hunduza, who were on the bench, made the trip.
Five new players, including Young Sables Un Under-20 star Connor Pritchard and George Sau“Saungweme, are in the squad.
“I would not say we are throwing them in the deep-end. We need this if Zimbabwe’s rug rugby is to come back to its status as a pow powerhouse,” said Mutamangira.
Z Zimbabwe’s squad to Namibia has an ave average age of 26 years, their youngest side in mo more the five years with Constantine “Costa” Din Dinha being the oldest at 38.
P Pritchard, who was a revelation at the Wo World Rugby Trophy Under-20 tournament afa few months ago, has been named in the star starting XV together with Ian Muza, Tadius Dz Dzandiwandira, David Makanda and Tin Tinashe Toriro.
N Nine of the players in the starting XV aga against Namibia on Saturday were born after 199 1990 and this becomes Zimbabwe’s youngest Sa Sables squad in almost a decade.
Mandenge also believes in the crop of players he has chosen.
“This is a sign that we are rebuilding. It is important that we take development seriously and invest in the players that come through our system and this is the beginning.
“Yes, we are going to be facing Namibia, it is going to be a tough game but we have to start preparing for the future and come Hong Kong (in November) this is the kind of a team we are looking forward to be travelling with,” said Mandenge.
On the other hand, Namibia have had two comprehensive opening victories against Uganda and Kenya at home and away and will most likely give Zimbabwe a difficult time.
The winner of Division 1A — the highestrated group — will be crowned Africa Cup champion.