The Sables technical team has launched a bid to strengthen the team ahead of the 2015 Rugby World Cup qualifiers by recalling experienced players while also inviting new ones who include South African-born Lambert Groenewald.
As the dates draw closer, the foreign-based players have started trooping in ahead of the training camp and there will be a number of new faces as Zimbabwe Rugby looks to make the best out of the opportunity to join the World Cup party in England next year.
Some of the players set to make a comeback include Simba Mandiona, Danford Mutamangira, and Danny Robertson who has been training with the squad of late.
It is the inclusion of Groenewald that is likely to generate interest, with other new faces also expected in a 36-men squad that will be announced next week.
The technical team is busy trimming from an original cast of 55 players that were being considered for the World Cup squad.
This week, Zimbabwe Rugby Union director Liam Middleton told IndependentSport that the technical is team is preparing to unleash the strongest possible Sables squad for the qualifiers.
“We have been looking at many options. we want to come up with the strongest possible squad,” said Middleton.
“We have a number of players that are returning. the squad is going to be much stronger than it was in Namibia. we have players that were not available for that tournament due to injury and club commitments, who are available this time. Danny Robertson has come back, he has played for the Sables before, but like everyone else, he is not guaranteed a place. he will provide competition for places.”
Middleton added that his technical team, which also includes coach Brendan Dawson and his assistant Cyprian Mandenge, face a tough task in coming up with the final squad. stiff competition for places expected.
“We have many quality players coming up, so we will have to make some tough choices there. It’s going to be a difficult squad to select. We have Simba Mandiona who is based in Durban, he also gives us an option as a hooker and we also have Denford Mutamangira also coming in to add strength upfront, but they are all not guaranteed places in the final squad for the World Cup qualifiers.
I have just confirmed with Golden Lions that Lambert Groenewald will be available to play for Zimbabwe, he has got some Super Rugby experience and that is an exciting prospect.”
The Sables are expected to match up in a possible versus probable contest as the World Cup qualifier preparations gather momentum.
This match will be used to select the squad that will play an international match in Harare before the South African tour a week before the qualifiers in Madagascar.
“We are negotiating with an African country for an incoming tour; we want to play one match in Harare. When I came, one of my main aims was to bring more rugby into the country because we want the development players to identify with the Sables. In South Africa, we have a number of teams that expressed interest in playing us there and we hope we can get at least three matches.”
Namibia has an identical programme with the Sables, with matches lined-up against South African provincial sides.
Kenya have enjoyed more game time together after their involvement in Vodacom Cup an exercise that gobbled US$750 000.
Lyon Olympique Universitaire’s explosive winger William Ambaka has joined the team for training.
Madagascar will play a French team before the qualifiers, so I think our preparations are as good as any.
Middleton believes that the Namibia tournament does not give a reflection of what could happen in the important qualifiers.
“Madagascar could prove to be a tough opponent, they are playing at home and you don’t quite know what to expect from them. But we are much stronger than we were in Namibia and having beating Kenya by a wide margin before, the narrow lose to the hosts, we will go in with all the confidence.
We played Namibia and Kenya in Windhoek last year and we beat Kenya heavily while the Namibia game was close, we lost but we did well. Obviously our squad is going to be much stronger this time, so we are going out there with all the confidence that we can get the results.
The only challenge now is the lack of sponsorship to fund these tours. We are working hard to get some sponsorship so that we make thorough preparations. It has been a challenge so far, but we are confident that something will come up.
The guys are doing well in training. they are coming in five days a week and everybody is working hard. they are all focused.”