The prospect of playing the All Blacks at the 2015 World Cup in England has wetted the Sables’ appetite for a place at the global rugby showcase.
Report by Kevin Mapasure
The team will crank up preparations for the 2015 qualifiers with participation in the Emirates Airline Cup of Nations starting tomorrow in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
If the Sables qualify for the World Cup they would be placed in Pool C together with holders New Zealand, Argentina, Tonga and another qualifier from Europe.
This year the national 15s team won the Africa Cup hosted by Tunisia after beating them in the final.
Not since 1991 when current Sables coach Brendan Dawson and others graced the global showpiece has Zimbabwe played at the World Cup.
The Emirates tournament is more preparation to what should be a bruising contest against the likes of Namibia who have made the second berth for the continent theirs in recent years.
“The prospect of playing New Zealand is quite exciting and enticing,” said Dawson. “Every player dreams of playing at the World Cup and I think we have a good opportunity this time. We will need to play a lot of quality rugby and we will need a lot of training camps, but the good thing is that the player pool is increasing with this prospect. We have had so many players asking to be considered in the last few months as everybody expects us to qualify for the World Cup,” he said.
Dawson said the squad would need funding to enable the technical team to asses players and give them all equal opportunities.
Sables assistant coach Cyprian Mandenge told IndependentSport in an interview before the team’s departure for Dubai this week that such tournaments help the team improve ahead of qualifiers.
“We are only thinking about the World Cup at the moment and it is good that we are playing these games that expose us to a different level of competition than what we are accustomed to,” said Mandenge. “We are going to Dubai to prepare for those qualifiers and we are hoping that we start getting positive results against top opposition. This is a chance to test ourselves against the big boys.
These are the kinds of teams we will face if we qualify for the World Cup and we should play more against such opposition.”
Mandenge said the players made mistakes at the Namibia tournament but know that they cannot afford to repeat them against quality opposition. The experience in Namibia was helpful as the hosts had all that foreign-based players, he said.
The Sables technical team picked eight rookies who include prop Nick Winwood, Harare Sports Club’s Steven Hunduza, Graham Kulbark, US-based Simba Musarurwa, Lions’ Keith Murray, John McWade and flank Tonderai Chigumbura and UK-based Tommy Nelson.
Kuda Chiwanza, who is based in South Africa, is also available.
There is a mixture of youth and experience and the technical team believes the squad has better balance compared to the one they took to Namibia.
Zimbabwe has been struggling for funds but their fortunes have improved after intervention from the International Rugby Board and local mining company Marange Resources, who have taken care of the financial burden to allow the team to to concentrate on the game.
The Sables open their account at the Emirates Cup against Hong Kong tomorrow, before they clash with Belgium on Tuesday and round off with an encounter against the hosts on Friday.
RUGBY WORLD CUP 2015
Pool A: Australia, England, Wales, Oceania 1, play-off winner.
Pool B: South Africa, Samoa, Scotland, Asia 1, Americas 2.
Pool C: New Zealand, Argentina, Tonga, Europe 1, Africa 1.
Pool D: France, Ireland, Italy, Americas 1, Europe