ZIMBABWE Under-19 rugby team coach Brendon Bride is happy with the underdog tag as he seeks a winning start against Kenya in the Under-19 Rugby Africa Cup Group 1A Tournament semi-finals at St George’s College today.
BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
The crucial semi-final clash, which will see the winner booking a place in Saturday’s final, kicks off at 3pm and will be preceded by another semi-final featuring defending champions Namibia against Uganda.
Brider said his charges needed to step up their game to inflict revenge on their East African rivals, who have dominated Zimbabwe in the last two editions of the continental Under-19 championships.
Kenya, who have invested heavily in junior rugby, won 20-29 when the two teams met at the same stage two years ago in Nelspruit, South Africa, before completing a double over the Young Sables after another hard-fought 27-20 win in Windhoek last year.
“It will be one titanic battle,” Brider said during yesterday’s pre-tournament Press conference at a local hotel. “The bottom line is Kenya had one over us last year and the year before as well.”
Zimbabwe will bank on their strong pack of forwards which has lot of ball carriers, particularly South Africa-based tighthead prop Justin Mendelsohn and loose forward Martin Shioma, who has been having a good season for the Limpopo Blue Bulls Under-19 rugby side.
The Young Sables also have strong fetchers in the form of Aiden Burnett, and skipper Connor Pritchard, who was outstanding for Falcon College this season.
The pair are a menace on the deck and will be counted upon to contest everything at the breakdown. Their skills might come in handy this afternoon as they will need to return the go forward ball for their backline to thrive.
While the forwards are expected to play a crucial role, the Young Sables also seem to have a lot of pace and skill in their backline resources.
Prince Edward scrumhalf Ernest Mudzengerere and Joshua Gando make up the half back pairing, while Shingi Katsvere and Mudiwa Manhombo will line up in midfield.
The Young Sables technical department also look to have gone for pace in their back three with Tadiwa Gochera at full-back, while recent Sables trialists Tawanda Ngosi and Brian Matoramusha will provide the much needed pace from the wings.
Kenya coach Paul Odera said despite their recent dominance over Zimbabwe, they were still wary of the danger their opponents posed especially when playing on home soil.
“Everyone goes into a competition to win, but this year is going more difficult because we are playing Zimbabwe first and they are playing at home. When you analyse last year’s match, it was five tries to four to Kenya and had Zimbabwe converted all their tries, they would have won.
“Zimbabwe are a very skillful team particularly in open play. Defending champions Namibia are probably one of the best conditioned sides at this level and senior level,” Odera said.
The winner of the tournament on Saturday qualifies for the next edition of the Junior World Rugby Under-20 Trophy competition
Young Sables Starting XV: 1. Rodrick Mubaiwa, 2. Panashe Sora, 3. Justin Mendelsohn, 4. Tinashe Gonese, 5. Kudakwashe Ndoro, 6. Connor Pritchard (captain), 7. Martin Shioma, 8. Aiden Burnett, 9. Earnest Mudzengerere, 10. Joshua Gando, 11. Brian Matoramusha, 12. Shingi Katsvere, 13. Mudiwa Manhombo, 14. Tawanda Ngosi, 15. Tadiwa Gochera.
Replacements: 16.Tarisai Musasanura, 17. Farai Lioga, 18. Francis Mungwari, 19. Ronald Jiri, 20. Cole Bond, 21. Ngoni Zinyama, 22. Mathew Ushewokunze, 23. Russel Dinha, 24. Godwin Mangenje