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Sables raring to go

Enock Muchinjo

ZIMBABWE rugby has no good memories of west African opposition since the country’s World Cup dreams were shattered by a bunch of pumped-up players from that part of the continent just over a d

ecade ago.

Back in 1994, the Sables were painfully denied a glorious chance to play in the World Cup hosted by neighbours South Africa in 1995 by surprise package Cote d’Ivoire who many thought were going to fizzle out in the knock-out stages after earlier surprising everyone with their fierce determination in a qualifying tournament in Casablanca, Morocco.

Now it is Senegal’s turn to try and brew another shocker at Prince Edward School tomorrow.

The Senegalese, who are more famous for their prowess in football than rugby, come to Harare with their tails up after sending another southern African side reeling out of contention. Two weeks ago, Senegal descended on Lusaka with 16 professional players plying their trade in France, led by utility forward Steve Sargos, and as they had done in Dakar two weeks earlier, the west Africans dismissed Zambia 13-6 to add to their 22-14 first-leg win.

Zimbabwe are a different ball game. Natural ability, combined with a good reading of the game, should help pull the Sables through.

It is coach Chris Lampard’s first game in charge, and the new man has to do with a severely depleted side. Key players who had become very much part of the Sables in recent fixtures, the likes of captain Costa Dinha, flank Jeff Tigere, flyhalf Shaun Smit and fullback Edmore Takaendesa – all based in Germany – and English-based wing Augustine Mberi, are not available due to financial constraints.

In comes stand-in captain, flank Max Madziwa, previously based at Leeds in England and now featuring for Old Hararians in the domestic league.

Madziwa leads a young team that will also miss the services of veteran prop Clint Joseph, injured in training last week, and other experienced players dropped for missing training.

The coaching department was not amused by the players’ attitude, including speedy wing Tonderai Mapunde who was expected to steer the team’s attack tomorrow. The decision to drop these players in the absence of key players could backfire for success-hungry Zimbabwe.

However, Sables manager Doug Fingland said the team was raring to go.

“We have had some hard training this week and the guys are starting to pull together. There are notable absentees, but we are basically happy with the material we have and the players must be able to deliver,” said Fingland.

Zimbabwe’s halfback department, boosted by the presence of dazzling playmaker and kicker, flyhalf David Cloete of Durban University in South Africa, can also rely on the experience of scrumhalves Gary Hewitt and Tich Chidongo for vital linkage.

Utility three-quarter Victor Zimbawo, based in Germany, and the South African-based trio of flyhalf David Cloete, fullback Cleopas Makotose and hooker Aubrey Dube are the only players based out of the country.

Zimbabwe starting line-up:

1.Norman Mutiba 2. Aubrey Dube 3. Shingi Chirimuuta 4. Fortune Chipendo 5. Robbie Du Rand 6. Max Madziwa (captain) 7. Mbekezeli Ndiweni 8. Rocky Gurumani 9. Gary Hewitt 10. David Cloete 11. Emmanuel Munyoro 12. Gilbert Nyamutsamba 13. Wesley Mbanje 14. Victor Zimbawo. 15. Cleopas Makotose

Reserves: Kestel Gertenbach, Kuda Kambasha, Cainford Danga, Jacques Leitao, Slater Ndlovu, Jason Hitz, Agrippa Makowere, Emmanuel Mukandi, Alfred Sairayi, Rueben Kumpasa, Elvis Chirenje, Tich Chidongo.

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