Zim U18 team primed for Craven Week
THE Zimbabwe Under-18 Girls rugby national team is targeting a more robust showing at this year’s Craven Week Tournament, scheduled for HT Pelatona Projects Stadium in South Africa.
The tournament, slated for July 3-7, is expected to attract 16 teams from South African and Zimbabwe.
Head coach Nsikelelo Sibanda has the odds in his favour, as his charges have been on an upward trajectory since first entering the tournament in 2015.
In their debut campaign, Zimbabwe finished fourth out of 16 teams, and improved to third last year. A larger player base and improved player retention look to be Sibanda’s secret weapons as he looks to continue with the rise.
“Our options were very wide and it was actually difficult to pick a side,” said Sibanda. “We had several options to pick a side and we looked all over the country. The limiting factor was documents, as most of the girls did not have travelling documents, so we did not get what we really wanted.”
This year’s squad has retained nine players who featured in the 2016 tournament, much better than the two who played in both 2015 and the subsequent edition. Local leagues and tournaments have aided in match fitness, and the provisional squad started preparations as far back as the Easter holidays.
Some of the key players to look out for include Trish Ngwiringwiri, Leanne Max and Debby Mutepuka.
The tournament runs concurrently with the Under-13 girls’ event, where Zimbabwe will also be represented.
South Africa Rugby CEO Jurie Roux hopes to increase the followership and spectator value at this year’s tournament.
“We hope to align the Under16 and Under-18 National Girls Weeks as well next year, in our bid to boost these tournaments. This tweak will result in three consecutive festivals of rugby next season, which will be equally exciting for SA Rugby, the players and spectators alike,” he said.