Bruising battle for Sables berths

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A NUMBER of foreign-based Zimbabwean professional rugby players are interested in turning out for the Sables ahead of next year’s 2015 World Cup qualifiers which would trigger a bruising contest for places in the team.

Kevin Mapasure

While coach Brendan Dawson has welcomed competition for places, he maintains locally-based players will be afforded as good an opportunity as those based abroad.

Fourteen foreign-based players have been called into camp ahead of the tri-nations series against Namibia and Kenya next month, but more are expected in subsequent friendlies.

Some of the players turned out for junior national teams before leaving to play abroad but have been contacting the technical team and Zimbabwe Rugby Union expressing interest in playing for Zimbabwe.
The country has the best chance in a long time to qualify for the World Cup to be hosted by England.

The Sables can get an automatic ticket by winning the Africa Cup next year against Namibia, Kenya and Madagascar.

They will play Madagascar in the semi-final and even if they lose the final against either Kenya or Nambia, they will have another shot at a playoff with a European nation.

Dawson yesterday told IndependentSport he was delighted more players wanted to play for Zimbabwe.

“We are pleased that all the players we have called in responded positively, the foreign-based players are all coming, and we have more players expressing the desire to come back and play,” said Dawson.

“After the squad was announced, we have had players calling to register their interest.

“Even after the Namibia tri-nations, I think we will have more foreign-based players coming in so that we build the strongest squad possible.

“As a coach I always strive to do better than what we did in the previous game; we need to field a stronger side than we fielded when we lost to Kenya.”

Zimbabwe’s two-year continental dominance came to an end this year when they lost to Kenya in the final of the Africa Cup, after beating Madagascar in the semi-final.

The Sables missed key players who went on strike pushing for the removal of team manager Losson Mtongwizo, accused of meddling in team selection.

The 43-man squad in camp will be trimmed on Tuesday before a full training camp in Bulawayo starting on Friday.

The foreign-based professionals are expected to add valuable experience to a squad dominated by part-timers.

Fixtures:
November 8; Namibia vs Zimbabwe, November 12; Kenya vs Zimbabwe, November 16; Namibia vs Kenya.

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