DEPRIVED of six first-team players, the Zimbabwe Sevens rugby team are still firm favourites to win a remarkable third straight Castle Lager Lusaka International Sevens tournament in Zambia at the weekend.
The trio of backs Cleopas Makotose, Gerald Sibanda and Tangai Nemadire has not been released by Schotse-Kloof Walmers Rugby Club in Cape Town. Halfbacks Ryan Manyika and Willis Magasa are also sidelined.
Manyika has pressing college commitments in the UK while Magasa is still battling a shoulder injury.
Star winger Wes Mbanje has a crucial league match for Union Rugby Club in Johannesburg where he plays alongside fellow Zimbabweans, forwards Norman Mukondiwa and Kevin Nqidi.
â€œIâ€™m not worried,â€ team manager Bruce Hobson said. â€œThe quality of players we have is good. I need 20 players who can play international sevens. At the time of the World Cup we had 14 to 16. If say we lose six players to injury or anything we must still go out there and compete.â€
The four new faces in the Cheetahs 13-man squad are Districtsâ€™ backs Scotty Jones, Former University of Johannesburg winger Bruce Chibesa, and Bulawayo-based wings Busani Ncube and Japhet Ndebele. Chibesa, who played Sevens for Lions in South Africa, was capped once by the Sables in 2007.
France-based flyhalf Piet Benade will use the tournament as part of his rehabilitation.
Two players in the squad will upon arrival in Lusaka drop to the Goshawks, the second-string team which is also traveling.
Jacques Leitao (captain), Daniel Hondo, Fortune Chipendo, Grant Mitchell, Slater Ndlovu, Alex Ndangana, Gardner Nechironga, Tafadzwa Mhende, Piet Benade, Scotty Jones, Bruce Chibesa, Japhet Ndebele, Busani Ncube. â€” Staff Writer