THE Zimbabwe senior rugby team will be hoping to restore some lost pride by subduing Uganda’s Cranes in Kampala at the weekend and secure their stay in the top-tier Rugby Africa Gold Cup on Saturday.
BY KENNEDY NYAVAYA
The game, which is like déjà vu for the limping Sables, who lost to Uganda on home soil last year, is a crunch encounter, as they are dicing with relegation at the bottom of the group, having only won once in this campaign, against Senegal.
In an interview before departure for the East African country yesterday, Sables coach Cyprian Mandenge said his troops were itching to atone for that after a below-par rugby showcase against Tunisia in the capital last weekend, where they lost 23-31.
“The outcome of our last game was not good. We have had our game reviews and the guys want to redeem themselves in the coming game because they know they disappointed the nation,” Mandenge said.
“We have really been working harder in preparation for the game to avoid past mistakes and we also made sure that we got enough rest.”
The team has been lambasted by different stakeholders for losing to Tunisia, who had not won any game before arriving in Harare, but Mandenge believes all loose ends have been tied.
He has added four new players to the existing squad, namely hooker, Matthew Mandioma, lock, Witness Mandizha, centre, Rian O’Neil and flyhalf, Lenience Tambwera, who is expected to add some kicking expertise, which was glaringly missing at critical points in the last game.
“We have not made many changes to the team except for the four additions. He (Tambwera) is fighting for his usual flyhalf position,” Mandenge said.
The return of Tambwera could see regular flyhalf, Tichafara Makwanya being relegated to the bench.
Despite an uninspiring campaign, the team is hopeful of remaining in the elite group, which would keep hopes of participating in next year’s Rugby World Cup qualifiers alive.
“Our objective this year was to stay in the Gold Cup and, as you saw, most players from our last campaign have left, but our aim is still the same even though we got a partner six weeks ago and things have started falling into place,” Mandenge said.
Sables travelling squad
Props: Denford Mutamangira, Lawrence Cleminson, Irvine Nduwa and Matthew Mandioma
Hookers: Tolerance Zishe and Royal Mwale
Locks: Kingsley Lang, Fortunate and Witness Mandizha
Loose forwards: Jacques Leitao, Biselele Tshamala, Takudzwa Mandiwanza and Njabulo Ndhlovu
Scrumhalves: Hilton Mudariki and Scott Jones
Flyhalves: Tichafara Makwanya and Lenience Tambwera
Wings: Stephan Hunduza and Takudzwa Kumadiro
Centres: Ngoni Chibuwe, Gavin Nyawata and Riaan O’Neil
Full Back: Tedius Dzandiwandira Hwata