ZIMBABWE is slowly becoming to the South African rugby what the rest of the Pacific is to Australia and New Zealand.
The latest evidence to this is the selection of Zimbabwean-born prop Brian Mujati in the first training squad of new Springbok coach Peter de Villiers.
The 23-year-old Mujati, a former Zimbabwe Under 21 international, has been included in a 45-man Springbok squad alongside fellow Zimbabwean and Stormers teammate, winger Tonderai Chavhanga, who has already been capped by his adopted country, scoring six tries on his debut against Uruguay in 2005.
Chavhanga was included despite carrying an injury.
The Boks are preparing to play Wales in two home Test matches on June 7 and 14.
Another Zimbabwean-born star, Sharks prop Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira, was only omitted because the squad does not include any players from the Durban-based franchise, which is in Australia ahead of the Super 14 semi-final showdown with the Waratahs, tomorrow.
Mtawarira, like Mujati, was educated at Peterhouse College in Marondera. They are regarded as two of the most promising young forwards in world rugby. Harare-born Mtawarira has been spoken of as heir apparent to Boks World Cup-winning loosehead prop, Os du Randt.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe rugby coach Brendan Dawson says his young side will not be intimidated by 2007 World Cup participants Namibia when they meet in the combined Africa Cup-World Cup qualifiers.
The Sables face the Namibians in Windhoek on August 12 after playing Senegal on July 12 at home.
Zimbabwe has struggled to beat Namibia at home since 1980.
“Itâ€™s going to be hard,” Dawson said. “They will bring all their foreign based players who where at the World Cup. But they are beatable. We also have our foreign-based guys who have played for us before and new guys who want to play for us.”
Dawson, Zimbabweâ€™s most capped international with a little over 100 caps as a loose forward, believes the Sablesâ€™ backs will be the key department.
“I think we can trouble them with our three-quarter line,” he said. “Weâ€™ve got very talented three-quarter players from sevens, who are highly-rated in the world. Also our (forwards) pack is quite decent as well. We can put it together and beat them in their backyard.”
Zimbabwe are in Pool A of the Africa Cup with Senegal and Namibia. The top team qualifies for the semi-finals. The winner of the Africa Cup takes Africaâ€™s sole spot, other than South Africa, at the 2011 IRB World Cup finals in New Zealand.
The Bulawayo-based Dawson will meanwhile attend the national trials at Harare Sports Club this weekend to pick a side to play Zambia in an international friendly in Kitwe next Saturday.
Harare province will field two sides, with Matabeleland, Midlands and Easterns (combining Manicaland and Mashonaland East), sending a side each.
A national Under 21 side and a womenâ€™s team, to also play in Zambia, will also be selected during the trials.