BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
EXACTLY 20 months since their last competitive match, the Sables will finally make their return to international rugby arena this afternoon when they host neighbours Zambia in the first of two friendlies at the Harare Sports Club.
The Sables last played a competitive match in September 2019 when they lifted the Victoria Cup which also featured East African side Kenya and Uganda as well their opponents today.
After the long hiatus which was caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Sables will be hoping to make up for lost time on their return to action as they gear up for 2021 Rugby Africa Cup matches in Tunisia next month.
Playing as President’s XV, the team, fresh from an intense training and bonding camp in Harare, will take on Zambia today and on Saturday in warm-up matches before hosting Namibia on June 12 at the same venue.
They will then travel to Windhoek to face Namibians again on June 19. On July 3, Brendan Dawson’s men will face Blue Bulls Select at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria, South Africa, to further fine-tune for the Tunisian tour, which is the first phase of 2023 Rugby World Cup qualifiers.
Their focus today will, however, be on their first match against an improving Zambia.
Dawson believes the upcoming matches will be a perfect opportunity for his players to get valuable competitive game time and team cohesion after the long hiatus.
“It’s about getting the match fitness, by the time we go to Tunisia we will have played about five games under our belts and hopefully we will be match fit. Match fitness is so different to normal fitness from running around the field and that’s what we are trying to gain from this,” he said.
“We’ve brought in guys from all over the world that are playing in totally different patterns and we’re trying to get them to play a game together in two weeks. Other teams have had a year to produce that, so it’s hard but the guys are working hard, are dedicated and focused and want to be accurate in everything they do,” he added.
The technical team are expected to rotate their squad in the upcoming matches as they seek to find the right combinations from the expanded 47-man training squad which features an assortment of experienced internationals, rookies and highly-rated newcomers.
While Zimbabwe’s match against Zambia will be the highlight of the afternoon, local fans, who will be able to follow the action through live streaming, have an opportunity to watch the national women’s side and Under-20 men’s side in the lead-up to the main game.
The action begins at 10am when the Zimbabwe Under-20 side take on the Zambia Select side.
The Shaun DeSouza-coached Young Sables will be seeking a double over Zambia after registering a 36-13 win over the hosts in Lusaka at the weekend.
After the first curtain raiser match, focus will then shift to the national women’s fifteens side’s encounter against their Zambian counterparts at 1200 hours.
The main match between the Sables and Zambia kicks off at 1500 hours.
Forwards: Aaron Sawu, Aiden Burnett, Biselele Tshamala, Blithe Mavesere, Bornwill Gwinji, Cleopas Kundiona, David Makanda, Deanne Makoni, Doug Juszczyk, Farai Mudariki, Gabriel Sipapate, George Saungweme, Godfrey Muzanargwo, Jan Ferreira, Jason Fraser, Royal Mwale, Sean Beevor, Sebastian Roche, Simba Mandioma, Takunda Kundishora, Tinotenda Masasanure, Tonderai Chiwambutsa, Tyran Fagan.
Backs: Brandon Boshi, Boyd Rouse, Brandon Mudzekenyedzi, Brendon Mandivenga, Darrel Makwasha, Dudlee White-Sharpley, Hilton Mudariki, Jason Robertson, Keith Chiwara, Kyle Galloway, Marcus Nel, Martin Mangongo, Matthew McNab, Takudzwa Chieza, Munesu Muneta, Mungo Mason, Munopa Muneta, Ngoni Mazarura, Riaan O’Neil, Rufaro Chikwaira, Shayne Makombe, Shingi Katsvere, Takudzwa Kumadiro, Tinashe Hombiro.
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