BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
SOUTH African-bred rising rugby star Andrew Evans has become the latest high-profile player to pledge his international allegiance to Zimbabwe, in a huge coup for Sables head coach Brendan Dawson ahead of the crucial 2023 Rugby World Cup qualifiers.
The 24-year-old Harare-born lock joins the growing list of gifted rugby players scattered around the world, who have retraced their Zimbabwean roots in a bid to help the nation qualify for their first World Cup since 1991.
Other South African-born or bred players who have put their hands up for Sables selection include the France-based duo of Michael Kumbirai and Jason Fraser, joining Pumas’ speedster Tapiwa Mafura, who made his Sables debut late last year.
Scotland-born flank Mason Mungo is also poised for his Sables debut while New Zealand-bred flyhalf Jason Robertson and the Australia-based duo of centre Kyle Goodwin and scrumhalf Ian Prior have expressed interest to play for Zimbabwe’s flagship rugby side.
While the other players are only expected to be available for the World Cup qualifiers, Evans’ inclusion gives the team an immediate boost ahead of their participation in the Currie Cup First Division.
Evans is already with the squad which started its training camp in Cape Town on Monday ahead of the South African competition, where Zimbabwe will compete as the Goshawks.
His experience from his previous stint with the Sharks will be valuable for the Zimbabwean side.
Evans was part of the Sharks’ 2020 Super Rugby squad, having previously featured in the Vodacom Rugby Challenge and the Currie Cup for the Durban franchise.
Recently, he turned out for Russian side RC CSKA Moscow before he left the country in the wake of the sanctions imposed on Moscow following its invasion of Ukraine.
Evans was part of a big contingent of South African players who were being earmarked by the Russian Rugby Federation to represent their national side after serving a five-year residency.
The Russians’ loss now looks set to be a big gain for Zimbabwe. Evans was born in Harare and was schooled in South Africa, where he attended Clifton College in Durban.
After captaining his school’s first team rugby side in 2015, Evans was initially selected for the KwaZulu-Natal Under-18 Rugby Academy team before he gradually worked his way through the Sharks age-group ranks until making his senior provincial debut for the Durban-based outfit in the 2018 Currie Cup Premier Division.
The 2,05m tall player, Evans is expected to be a crucial lineout asset for the Goshawks in the upcoming Currie Cup First Division and ultimately for the Sables during the Rugby World Cup qualifiers in France.
Meanwhile, the Goshawks are set to step up their preparations for the Currie Cup First Division with a preparatory match against Boland Cavaliers in Wellington, Western Cape on Saturday.
The match kicks off at 1130.
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