BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
ZIMBABWE’S national rugby team will be looking to end a seven-year trophy drought by winning the Victoria Cup when they take on neighbours Zambia in the penultimate round of the four-nation tournament at the Lusaka Showgrounds today.
The unbeaten Sables need a bonus point victory over winless Zambia to win the title with a game to spare ahead of their final match of the tournament against second placed Kenya in Nakuru next Saturday.
By winning the revived Victoria Cup they would have ended a seven-year trophy drought by the Zimbabwe rugby team dating back to 2012 when they lifted their maiden Africa Cup title.
Ironically, current coach Brendan Dawson was in his first stint as Sables coach when Zimbabwe won their first and only continental title.
The former Sables captain also led Zimbabwe to the Victoria Cup title in 2011 before the tournament’s eight year hiatus.
Sables captain Hilton Mudariki said he was pleased with how the team prepared and believes some of the new additions to the squad will bring a new dimension as they look to put on a good performance against the Zambians.
“The camp has been really good; we had a really good week of training. A few new guys have arrived into camp and have put their hands up which has created a lot of pressure for the coaches to select the final squad. We’ve been doing well we want to continue with that. We know that Zambia is going to be tough, but the boys are ready and really looking forward to the challenge ahead on Saturday,” Mudariki said.
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The Sables squad has been boosted by the return of Sharks Under-21 star Cleopas Kundiona Jr, who is set to feature in his first Test of the season having missed the first four matches to club commitments.
The powerful tighthead prop will add more firepower to a strong front row which also includes Spain-based loose-head Tyran Fagan and hooker Keith Murray, who had a solid game against Uganda at home.
Utility forward George Saungweme partners the ever-improving Godfrey Muzanagwo in the second row, while Godwin Manjenge comes in at blind-side flank to partner young Blithe Mavesere at openside with and eighthman Biselele Tshamala.
The Sables technical team has also rung a few changes in the backline, with rookie Rufaro Chikwaira set to make his debut at left wing in place of Kuda Chiwanza, while 20-year-old Martin Mangongo retains his place at fullback ahead of the injured Shingi Katsvere.
Sables starting line-up (15-1) –
15. Martin Mangongo 14. Takudzwa Kumadiro 13. Daniel Capsopolous 12. Ngoni Chibuwe 11. Rufaro Chikwaira 10. Dudlee White- Sharpley 9. Hilton Mudariki (captain), 8. Biselele Tshamala 7. Blithe Mavesere 6. Godwin Mangenje 5. Godfrey Muzanargwo 4. George Saungweme 3. Cleopas Kundiona 2. Keith Murray 1. Tyran Fagan.
Replacementss: 16. Matthew Mandioma 17. Royal Mwale 18. David Makanda 19. Sean Beevor 20. Tonderai Chiwambutsa 21. Njabulo Ndlovu 22. Jerry Jaravaza 23. Takudzwa Chieza.