The senior national rugby side started full camp yesterday ahead of their friendly match against South African provincial side Valke with all but two players in the provisional 30-man squad joining camp.
The high-profile friendly match will be played under floodlights at Harare Sports Club on Friday and the national side will be playing under the Goshawks banner.
Former Zimbabwe Under-20 loose forward Biselele Tshamala and Matabeleland Warriors centre Paul Staak were the only absentees and have effectively been ruled out of the match.
“All the guys have pitched up for camp except only two players who have been ruled out of the final squad which we will name on Thursday (tomorrow). Biselele Tshamala, who is based in South Africa, was supposed to meet with us in Bulawayo before connecting with us to Harare, but we haven’t heard from him. Paul on the other hand asked to be excused because of personal commitments.”
The first day of training also witnessed the return of the prolific try-scoring winger Wesley Mbanje to the XVs rugby set-up after a lengthy absence.
The South Africa-based dreadlocked winger, who had become somewhat of a Sevens rugby specialist in recent years, is expected to inject the much-needed pace into the team’s attack.
The other foreign-based players to also join camp were the diminutive England-based scrumhalf Charles Jiji and the South Africa-based duo of Norman Mukondiwa and Tinashe Bopoto.
Dawson said he expected a physical encounter which he said would be the ideal preparation ahead of next month’s CAR Africa Cup Group 1A tournament in Tunisia.
“No doubt it will be a very physical encounter as you would expect from most South African teams but we will be prepared for them. This is exactly what we needed ahead of the Africa Cup tournament and after the match we will have an idea of where we stand,” said Dawson.
According to team manager Losson Mtongwiza, Valke, who are taking this match very seriously, are expected in the country today with a contingent of 26 players, who will be accompanied by the Union’s full leadership.
“Valke are arriving on Wednesday (today) with strong 26-member team. They are taking this match very seriously and have indicated that they will be travelling with the president of their union. Hopefully we will give them a good game and show that we are worthy opponents,” said Mtongwiza.
Forwards: Norman Mukondiwa, Jacques Leitao, Denford Mutamangira, Kuda Kambasha, Ruramai Kudenga, Jonathan Goosen, Devon Esbach, Pieter Joubert, Jan Ferreira, Costa Dinha, Fortune Chipendu, Simba Mandioma, Tinashe Bopoto, Samson Makuku, Witness Mandizha, Shingi Mpofu, Takunda Chifokoyo
Backs: Daniel Hondo, Cleopas Makotose, Tangai Nemadire, Danny Robertson, Tichafara Makwanya, Lloyd Machanjaire, Lenience Tambwera, Kuda Chiwanza, Cleopas Makotose, Wes Mbanje, Charles Jiji, Scotty Jones, Gavin Nyawata