Sables seek winning start

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INTERNATIONAL rugby returns to Zimbabwe when the national team, the Sables, tackle Kenya in their opening match of the Africa Cup Group 1A competition at Prince Edward School this afternoon.

BY DANIEL NHAKANISO

The game starts at 3:30pm.

The Sables last played a full international match at home in 2011 when they beat Uganda 49-21 at Hartsfield Rugby Ground in Bulawayo.

After almost five years without any competitive fixtures at home, the Sables would be eager to make a winning return in front of their home fans.

Zimbabwe are expected to stick to the winning formula by dominating their opponents up front after beating Kenya 28-10 in a Rugby World Cup qualifier in Madagascar last year.

The Kenyans, who are well known for their exploits in Sevens Rugby, like to play an open game, spreading the ball wide and attacking the open spaces with their speedy backline.

However, Sables head coach Cyprian Mandenge, in his first game in charge, will look to counter with a strong pack of forwards, especially in the tight five, in order to unsettle the East Africans.

SABLES PIC

Skipper Denford Mutamangira leads a fairly inexperienced front row alongside youthful tighthead Farai Mudariki and hooker Royal Mwale, while veteran utility forward Fortune Chipendo partners Sanele Sibanda in the second row.

Eighthman Kingsley Lang, alongside flankers Andrew Rose and Shingi Mpofu, make up the loose trio whose sheer power could be vital in securing the ball for the pacey and skillful backline to work with.

While the pack will be the most critical department for the Sables, the backline is also expected to play a crucial role this afternoon.

Vice-captain Tichafara Makwanya, who was limited to a bit-part role during the latter stages of Zimbabwe’s Rugby World Cup campaign, gets the nod ahead of Lenience Tambwera at flyhalf in what should be an exciting halfback pairing with livewire scrumhalf Charles Jiji.

Riaan O’Neill, whose silky skills and running style have added a new dimension to the way the Sables backline operates, retains his place in the Sables’ midfield where he partners Cleopas Makotose in what promises to be an explosive centre-pairing.

Full-back Tangai Nemadire, together with wingers Tafadzwa Chitokwindo and Gardner Nechironga, complete the back three for the Sables. Despite having only a week to prepare with his charges, Mandenge — who also has to make do without several players due to a combination of injuries and academic commitments — said his charges were raring to go.

“Time is never enough, but with the little time we had I’m sure we covered pretty much everything we needed to cover. Everyone in the squad wants to play and all we need is to play to our game plan and everything falls into place. We need to control our patterns in defence and offence,” Mandenge said during yesterday’s pre-match Press conference.

Kenya coach Jerome Paarwater said they would not be focusing much on today’s result as they had begun preparing for the 2019 World Cup.

“We have a young side which is now preparing for the next World Cup so whatever happens for us tomorrow is a bonus. We know the quality rugby Zimbabwe play and they also know what we can do. I just hope the referee can handle the pace of the game,” he said.

Sables Starting XV

1 Denford Mutamangira (c), 2 Royal Mwale, 3 Farai Mudariki, 4 Sanele Sibanda, 5 Fortune Chipendo, 6 Shingi Mpofu, 7 Andrew Rose, 8 Kingsley Lang, 9 Charles Jiji, 10 Tich Makwanya, 11 Gardner Nechironga, 12. Cleopas Makotose, 13 Riaan O’Neill, 14 Tafadzwa Chitokwindo, 15 Tangai Nemadire

Replacements

16 Kudzai Muzorewa, 17 Lawrence Cleminson, 18 Tatenda Murwira, 19 Bisele Tshamala, 20 Boyd Rouse, 21 Stephan Hunduza, 22 Lenience Tambwera, 23 Peter Joubert, 24

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