Junior Sables brace for bruising battle

Junior Sables players in a huddle before their match against Ivory Coast in Nairobi on Saturday

ZIMBABWE Under-20 rugby team is bracing for a physical encounter when they face Tunisia in the semi-final of the Rugby Under-20 Africa Cup in wet weather conditions anticipated at the Nyayo Stadium in Nairobi, Kenya today.

The Junior Sables, who are the defending champions in the continental event, popularly known as the Barthes Trophy, began their title defence with a dominant 55-0 win against Côte d’Ivoire in their first match on Saturday.

The team, who have been heavily tipped successfully retain their title, showcased some exciting attacking rugby which set up the potentially explosive semi-final clash against Tunisia.

The North African side also made a big statement in their quarter final after cruising to a comfortable 52-16 win over Madagascar at the same venue.

Tunisia fielded a huge squad in terms of size in both their forwards and backs against Madagascar and are expected to take the same approach against Zimbabwe.

The Junior Sables, who edged the same team 19-18 at the same venue last year, expect the Tunisians to up their physicality and have made necessary changes to their forward pack.

Zimbabwe, who also boast of some mobile forwards and a lightning fast backline, will also look to exploit the Tunisians' lack of pace among the forwards.

“We have worked on a size component of our pack (of forwards),” Junior Sables head coach Shaun De Souza said in an interview with NewsDay Sport yesterday.

“We have looked at trying to play a Test match game based on the weather conditions and hopefully when we have settled down and the nerves we will then speed up the game and go with a lighter pack and use our mobility strength and try to capitalise on the Tunisians pack in the latter stages of the game. That's the plan and let's see if the weather holds up but if it doesn't we will adjust accordingly,” he added.

Zimbabwe has made three changes to their pack, with towering Huntley Masterson named at lock ahead of Allan Mawunga, whose considerable frame will now be deployed at the base of the scrum at number eight.

The other change sees the robust Hagler Muchenji slotting into the loose trio at blindside flank ahead of Tanaka Ndiri, who will add some firepower from the bench.

Apart from an additional tower in the line-out and more bulk in the scrum, the changes are expected to give the Junior Sables greater ball-carrying capability and they should pack greater punch in the collisions.

A victory against the Tunisians will see Zimbabwe qualifying for Saturday's final where they take on the winner of the other semi-final clash between the hosts Kenya and last year's losing finalists Namibia.

The winners of Saturday's final will clinch Africa’s single qualification position for July’s World Rugby Under-20 Trophy, which will also be hosted by Kenya.

Zimbabwe U20 Team vs Tunisia

  1. Happias Zhou
  2. Bryan Chiang
  3. Tadiwa Chinwada
  4. Huntley Masterson
  5. Tanaka GondoMukandapi VC
  6. Hagler Muchenji
  7. Muzuva Gutu
  8. Allan Mawunga
  9. Panashe Zuze C
  10. Brendan Marume VC
  11. Edward Sigauke
  12. Alex Nyamunda
  13. Dion Khumalo
  14. Panashe Mugorogodi
  15. Simbarashe Kanyangarara
  16. Stanley Muranganwa
  17. Gerry Zisengwe
  18. Gealan Jaricha
  19. Leo Mutendi
  20. Shadrick Mandaza
  21. Tanaka Chinyanga
  22. Brendan Jameson
  23. Tawananyasha Bwanya


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