ZIMBABWE rugby coach Chris Lampard yesterday named his final squad for the opening Africa Cup tie against Madagascar at Hartsfield in Bulawayo tomorrow.
Zimbabwe were dealt a severe blow after inspirational captain Max Madziva failed to pass
a fitness test which effectively rules him out of the match.
South Africa-based fullback Cleopas Makotose will be the stand-in captain.
Another piece of distressing news for the Sables was the no-show of England-based star Daniel Hondo who was expected in from London yesterday morning.
Hondo had been guaranteed a place as inside-centre to partner his former Harare Sports Club teammate Willis Magasa in Zimbabwe’s midfield. This will result in an early national team debut for either Gerald Sibanda or Manase Sita, both youngsters from Old Hararians Sports Club.
With tearaway wing Emmanuel Munyoro conspicuous by his absence, young Tangai Nemadire, who is set to join Hondo at Hartpury College in the UK from his Messina base, will shoulder the chief finishing role in the right wing.
On the left wing Lampard unveils Lloyd Makwati of Old Miltonians Sports Club, one of four young players making their debuts in front of their hometown crowd.
There were also places for three other new caps. Former national academy cricketer Norman Mukondiwa finally gets the chance to become a full international sportsman, which eluded him in cricket. He comes in at eighthman, his maiden Sables appearance as does his OMs teammate, lock Gardner Nechironga.
The fifth debutant, Busters and former national Under-21 flyhalf Paul Staark, has been handed the crucial playmaker’s role, teaming up with experienced OH skipper and scumhalf Tich Chidongo in the halfbacks.
The forwards pack, which will win or lose the game for the Sables, looks grittier in the front row where revatilised OH hooker Daniel Macheke has been preferred ahead of Mike Hess of Mashonaland Country Districts. Young but experienced prop Alfred Sairayi has regained his loosehead position, with tough South Africa-based Aubrey Dube fitting in at tighthead.
Lampard admitted Madziva’s absence and that of another key back rower, Slater Ndlovu, will be felt in the loosies, but expects blindside flank Jason Hitz and the team’s vice-captain Jacques Leitao to fully utilise their ball-winning abilities and speed in broken play.
Zimbabwe starting line-up:
1. Alfred Sairayi 2. Daniel Macheke 3. Aubrey Dube 4. Gardner Nechironga 5. Fortune Chipendo 6. Jason Hirtz 7. Jacques Leitao 8. Norman Mukondiwa 9. Tich Chidongo 10. Paul Staark 11. Lloyd Makwati 12. Gerald Sibanda 13. Willis Magasa 14. Tangai Nemadire 15. Cleopas Makotose (captain).