LOCAL rugby players will be out to shake off the off-season rust and hopefully impress provincial selectors when the domestic rugby season gets into motion tomorrow with the opening leg of the SPAR/Lion Lager Summer Series at Old Hararians Sports Club.
REPORT BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
The tourney will this year have a new format which is meant to give Zimbabwe Sevens Rugby selectors an opportunity to scout for talent ahead of the next month’s International Sevens tournament.
Unlike in the past where the main aim for the local clubs was to outdo each other with an eye on the overall title, the new format will see local clubs aiming to provide as many players as possible to the provincial and national teams.
The new format will see 12 Northern Region-based teams fight it out this weekend with players from participating teams eyeing selection into the two Northern Region select sides to be chosen after the weekend.
The tournament will then move to Gweru Sports Club next weekend where six rugby clubs from the Southern Region will have their chance to impress selectors.
Players who shine in Gweru will make up the one Southern Region select side while those who do not make it into the Northern or Southern select sides have a chance of making the Barbarian select side.
The north and south teams will then meet on February 23 at Harare Sports Club where the initial phase for selection into Cheetahs and Goshawks sides will begin.
The two traditional giants in local Sevens rugby, Red Seal Old Georgians and Harare Sports Club, will field two teams on Saturday.
Red Seal Old Georgians coach Grant Mitchel whose side has won the last two editions of the Spar Summer Series, said they had shifted their priorities in line with the new format.
“We have been training for the past three weeks and I can say our preparations have gone very well. We have had a very good turnout from the players and in our last session we had about 32 players which is a high turnout in Sevens.”
“Obviously with the previous format, the focus was on winning, but the new format means our aim is to ensure that the players are well equipped and prepared to showcase their talent.
“We would want to see most of our players making both the provincial and national sides,” said Mitchel.
Harare Sports Club will field a second string side coached by former Cheetahs speedster Tafadzwa Mhende while the first team will be coached by Cheetahs stars Daniel Hondo and Nsikelelo Sibanda.
Harare Sports Club chairman Donald Mangenje said the Harare-based club would be aiming to maintain their status as a breeding ground for upcoming rugby talent.
“Our preparations have been going on very well. The boys are looking forward to the start of the tournament.
“As Harare Sports Club, we pride ourselves in talent identification and nurturing, and it is our hope that we will be able to provide a number of players into the national and provincial sides,” Mangenje said.
Northern Region: Red Seal Dragons 1, Red Seal Dragons 2, HSC 1, HSC 2, Old Hararians, Airforce, Mbare, JB, Police, Mabvuku, Mutare, Mufakose.
Southern Region: Gweru, Masvingo Titans, Zvishavane, Old Miltonians, Matabeleland Warriors, Matabeleland Panthers.
SPAR/Lion Lager Summer Series Schedule
February 9 — (Old Hararians, Northern Clubs)
February 16 (Gweru Sports Club, Southern Clubs)
February 23 (Harare Sports Club, North Region Select vs South Region Select)
March 2 — (Harare Sports Club, Northern Region Select vs South Region Select)
March 9-10 (Harare Sports Club, Spar International Sevens)