ZIMBABWE will be hoping to erase the memories of Saturday’s loss to Hong Kong and keep their hopes alive in this Emirates Airline Cup of Nations XV Rugby tournament in Dubai, with a win over Belgium at the Sevens Stadium this afternoon.
Kick-off is 4pm (2pm Zimbabwean time)
REPORT BY DANIEL NHAKANISO IN DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
So determined is the Sables’ technical department to win this match that they have made four changes to the team that surrendered a 7-6 half-time lead to succumb 7-22 to Hong Kong in their opening match on Saturday evening.
Veteran skipper Costa Dinha has been dropped to the bench and Scotland-based flank Shingi Mpofu has taken over the team’s captaincy.
In his absence, youthful South Africa-based lock Sanile Sibanda will make his debut in the Sables’ second row alongside Jan Ferreira in what is the only change in the forwards pack.
Sanele, expected to feature prominently during line-out set pieces alongside Ferreira, came off the bench for his Sables first cap against Uganda in Bulawayo last year, but gets his first international start this afternoon.
The other change in the side sees seasoned fly-half Tichafara Makwanya reclaiming the number 10 jersey from young Lenience Tambwera who struggled with precision from the kicking tee in the first match.
Centre Josh Rowe, who suffered an injury on the eve of the first match after having been named in the starting team, finally makes his first appearance ahead of Tommy Nelson, who drops to the bench.
The last change is an injury forced one though. Centre Gavin Nyawata picked up a knock during the team’s last training session yesterday evening and has been replaced by Tommy Nelson.
Newly appointed captain Mpofu, who plays for AYR, is not new to latest duties having captained Harare Sports Club and should be an able replacement for Dinha.
Dinha seemed to have been sacrificed for the team’s frailties at line-out set pieces in the 22-7 loss to defending champions Hong Kong at the weekend.
Sables coach, Brendan Dawson, believes his charges can exploit that perceived lack of fitness with their running game.
“They’ve a few big boys in their forwards pack, but some of them don’t look fit at all. It’s something that we can exploit if we will have to spread 2pm wide a bit and move the ball away from contact area.
“Their backline also looks decent and they can also run the balls, but we will have to close the spaces and make sure we keep ball in hand and we secure clean ball from the ground,” Dawson said. The Sables will aim to counter Belgium’s physical approach with speed and flair when the two sides clash.
After losing their first match to Hong Kong at the same venue at the weekend, today’s match will be a must-win for the Sables as they aim to avoid slumping to a second consecutive loss in the quadrangular rugby Test match tournament.
The loss saw them drop one place from 30th to position 31 on the IRB World Rankings when they were reviewed yesterday.
They will, however, come up against a confident Belgian side – affectionately known as the “Black Devils” – who looked impressive in their flawless 94-3 win over a hapless UAE side on Saturday.
Steered by big ball carriers among their forwards and a speedy backline, the Belgians had a field day against the clueless unranked hosts who only recently acquired full membership of the International Rugby Board.
They, however, looked weary as the match wore on and had they remained in full gear they could have easily run in a few more tries.
Sables Starting XV: 1 Simba Musarurwa, 2 Keith Murray, 3 Nic Winwood, 4 Sanile Sibanda, 5 Jan Ferreira, 6. Shingi Mpofu (Captain), 7 Biselele Tshamala, 8. Takunda Chifokoyo, 9 Scotty Jones (Vice-captain), 10 Tichafara Makwanya, 11 Kuda Chiwanza, 12 Josh Rowe, 13 Tommy Nelson, 14 Steven Hunduza, 15 John McWade
Replacements: 16 Brian Makamure, 17 Piet Joubert, 18 Tapiwa Mangezi, 19 Costa Dinha, 20 Tonderai Chigumbura, 21 Lenience Tambwera, 22 Graham Kulback, 23 Shayne Makombe