Youth­ful Sables face Namibia

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Sport - Paul Mun­yuki

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.

Cyprian Man­denge

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