LOOSE forward Norman Mukondiwa will captain Zimbabwe in their rugby international match with Zambia in Kitwe tomorrow.
Matabeleland eighthman Mukondiwa, who will only be playing his sixth test match, is standing in for substantive skipper Cleopas Mokotose, who together with compatriot Tangai Nemadire, have again not been released by their Cape Town club, Schotsche Kloof Walmers.
Vice-captain Jacques Leitao was tipped to lead the Sables in Makotoseâ€™s absence, but coach Brendan Dawson â€” himself an eighthman in his playing days â€” preferred his hometown prodigy Mukondiwa.
Mukondiwa (26) who plies his trade at Polokwane in South Africa, was previously based in England where he played both rugby and cricket. A CFX Cricket Academy first-intake trainee, he also has first-class cricket experience with Matabeleland and Southerns.
He shepherds a somewhat experimental Sables first XV in the friendly, part of Zimbabweâ€™s preparation for the 2011 World Cup qualifiers starting in July.
Releasing the starting line-up before departing for the Zambian Copperbelt yesterday, Sables manager Losson Mtongwiza unveiled a new scrumhalf, Ketumetsi Tlou, who dislodges veteran Gary Hewitt to make his debut.
Tlou, a former Christian Brothers College and Zimbabwe Schools player, is club-mates in South Africa with Mukondiwa and Gardner Nechironga.
Forward-turned-back Nechironga will start at outside centre at the expense of regular Willis Magasa. He has previously played lock and flank for the Sables, but has failed to gain sufficient weight to compete in the pack.
Mtongwiza said of Nechironga: “He is actually very good as a centre. He picks his gaps easily and has got some deft side-steps. We also didnâ€™t know that heâ€™s got pace!”
Harare Sports Clubâ€™s speedy utility back Tafadzwa Mhende makes his first Sables starting line-up appearance at fullback.
Youngsters, HSCâ€™s Alex Ndangana and Manasah Sita, Districtsâ€™ acquisition from OH, starts on the wings.
On the bench, the Sables have flyhalf Danny Robertson and utility back Adrian Sibanda, who if they play, will uniquely become senior internationals just months after leaving school. Only last year, mercurial Districts playmaker Robertson was at Peterhouse College, while Sibanda left CBC in Bulawayo.
In the forwards, conspicuously missing is Old Hararians prop Alfred Sairai, an ever-present feature for the Sables since making his debut as a teenager in 2001. The huge 25-year-old tighthead was declared unfit.
Sairaiâ€™s place was taken up by Districtsâ€™ Piet Joubert, with HSC hooker Raymond Dzvairo and 33-year-old loosehead Rocky Gurumani of OH completing the front row trio.
The extra front-rower is Districts hooker Devon Esbach, who will be given his debut from the bench.
Meanwhile, Old Miltonians flanker Lucky Sithole was named captain for the Zimbabwe Under 21s, who will play Zambiaâ€™s youth side in a curtain-raiser match before the main test.
Other prominent players in the young Sables side are lively OH winger Rangarirai Zembe, Eaglesvale High scrumhalf Andrew McKean, Sports Club prop Tatenda “Kiwi” Murwira and Districts eighthman Kyle De Beer.
1. Piet Joubert 2. Raymond Dzvairo 3. Rocky Gurumani 4. Dustin Wilcox 5. Fortune Chipendo 6. Shaun Saywood 7. Jacques Leitao
8. Norman Mukondiwa (captain)
9. Ketumetsi Tlou 10. Happy Nyatanga 11. Alex Ndangana 12. Paul Staak 13. Gardner Nechironga 14. Manasah Sita 15.Tafadzwa Mhende.
Subs: 16. Devon Esbach
17. Dumisani Ncube 18. Prayer Chitenderu 19. Danny Robertson
20. Gary Hewitt 21. Adrian Sibanda 22. Willis Magasa.
By Enock Muchinjo