ZIMBABWE senior rugby team will be seeking to extend their unbeaten streak in the new look Victoria Cup when they host an equally confident Kenya in what is expected to be a bruising encounter at Hartsfield Stadium in Bulawayo on Saturday.
BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
The Sables picked their second victory in the Victoria Cup after beating Uganda 31-26 last Saturday in Kampala to maintain their unbeaten run in the four-nation round robin tournament, having opened their campaign with a 39-10 home win over Zambia last month.
The victory against the Uganda Cranes saw the Sables gain one place on the World Rugby rankings to position 35, three places below Kenya who remained on number 32 after their 43-23 win over Zambia in a tightly contested encounter in Kitwe last weekend.
Although the Sables head into the match oozing with confidence after the two opening wins, team manager Jason Maritz said they are not going to be complacent against Kenya, who have enjoyed a good record over Zimbabwe in recent years.
“Kenya is a tough side. They are competitive and have a strong desire to win. This is an important game for both teams and the Sables will be on high alert,” Maritz said ahead of the match.
“It is an advantage to win the first two matches and we know there is a lot of work to be done, Kenya will not be a walk over and we will give it everything,” he said.
The Sables technical team headed by coach Brendan Dawson has made four changes to the squad that travelled to Uganda with lock Goodwin Mangenje returning to the side after serving a one match suspension for his red card against Zambia.
Fullback Shingirayi Katsvere makes a welcome return from injury while centre Daniel Capsopolous, who scored two tries against Zambia and utility back Kuda Chiwanza also bounce back into the squad after missing the trip to Uganda.
A lot will be at stake on Saturday as both teams are undefeated and the winner from this match will have an upper hand in the title race.
Kenya arrived in Bulawayo on Tuesday having connected directly from Lusaka after their match against the Zambians.
Kenya head coach Paul Odera says he was wary of the physical threat posed by the Sables, but remains upbeat.
“The team has shown growth and consistency and it will be important if we can exhibit the same against Zimbabwe.
They are strong and hold advantage physically. Kenya played against Zimbabwe in the Gold Cup last year and won,” Odera told Xinhua yesterday.
Forwards: Tatenda Rwenyu, Royal Mwale, Tyran Fagan, David Makanda, Keith Murray, Matthew Mandioma, Godwin Mangenje, David Kapuya, Jan Ferreira, Blithe Mavesere, Brian Nyaude, Biselele Tshamala, Godfrey Muzanargwo, Aiden Burnett, Njabulo Ndlovu
Backs: Kuziwakwashe Kazembe, Hilton Mudariki, Takudzwa Chieza, Martin Mangongo, Chibuwe Ngoni, Daniel Capsopoulos, Takudzwa Kumadiro, Matthew McNab, Kudakwashe Chiwanza, Shingirai Katsvere, Rufaro Chikwaira, Dudlee White Sharpley