A 17-MEMBER Zimbabwe Sevens rugby provisional squad has been named for the forthcoming Dubai and George International Rugby Board (IRB) Sevens Series, with the final travelling 12 expected to be announced at the weekend.
draws, the Zambezi Cheetahs have been placed in Pool B in Dubai with giants Fiji, Australia and Argentina. In George, the Cheetahs will play in Pool A against New Zealand, England and Kenya.
In team news, the Cheetahs have been dealt a heavy blow with the announcement that England-based star centre Daniel Hondo will miss the two tournaments after sustaining a groin injury while playing for the Hartpury College in Gloucester.
“Danny has failed to pass a fitness test,” said Bruce Hobson, the national sevens manager: “He has been fantastic for us in defence. It’s obviously a blow. We (however) have a capable understudy in Cleopas Makotose (national XVs captain). While we are losing one guy, we are gaining another.”
With that, Makotose now looks certain to make the party to Dubai and George alongside Cheetahs skipper, Jacques Leitao, who is vice-captain of the national XVs.
Of the 17 named, only Leitao, who also captains the Mashonaland Country Districts, and the Harare Sports Club trio of 32-year-old lock Allan Mdehwa, flanker Tendai Takavarasha and centre Willis Magasa still play their rugby in Zimbabwe.
Though young, the squad is not short on sevens experience. The likes of Fortune Chipendo, who recently moved to England from Musina, the creative Magasa, speedy winger Wes Mbanje, flanker Slater Ndlovu, XVs flyhalf Grant Mitchell, and veterans Mdehwa and Neill Nortje have played for the Cheetahs in various international sevens tournaments in the last four years.
The players also have experience at XVs, with South Africa-based Bruce Macmillan the only one without a Sables cap.
The Dubai leg is set for end of November, with George following in early December.
Hobson said of the draws: “It’s going to be harder than last year because these are top sides we are going to play. But it’s hugely important because it gives us the opportunity of world-class sevens rugby. This is the only way we can see if we have progressed or not.”
Zimbabwe Sevens provisional squad:
Jacques Leitao (captain), Fortune Chipendo, Grant Mitchell, Tangai Nemadire, Roland Benade, Cleopas Makotose, Wes Mbanje, Alex Ndangana, Gerald Sibanda, Gardner Nechironga, Willis Magasa, Tendai Takavarasha, Bruce Chibesa, Bruce Macmillan, Allan Mdehwa, Silethokuhle Ndlovu, Neill Nortje. — Own Correspondent.