CYPRIAN Mandenge, the Zimbabwe rugby team coach has pin-pointed discipline as the key to beating Tunisia in their Africa Cup Group 1A encounter at Prince Edward’s Jubilee Field on Saturday.
By Daniel Nhakaniso
The Sables remain on course to win their second Africa Cup title after a comfortable 28-20 win over Kenya in the opening encounter two weeks ago and a win against Tunisia will leave them just a match away from another continental title.
However, with the North Africans known for pulling all the stops to frustrate their opponents into losing their discipline, Mandenge said his charges should brace themselves, not only for a physical contest, but also their dirty tactics.
“They’re a very physical side, but sometimes, sorry I have to say this, they can be a bit dirty also,” Mandenge said ahead of the match.
“Sometimes they can do anything to frustrate their opponents. We need to be prepared mentally and physically.
Maintaining our discipline is obviously going to be important and it’s something that we have been emphasizing to the players. We need to believe in our systems and maintain our structure at all times,” he said.
The former Old Hararians and Harare Sports Club coach will have to make do without the services of Rian O’Neill, lock Sanele Sibanda, flank Shingi Mpofu and eighthman Kingsley Lang, but with a squad of 22 players to choose from, he isn’t short on possible replacements.
“They are quality players who will definitely add something different and it’s going to make it more difficult to come up with the starting lineup,” Mandenge said of the new players in the squad.
The forwards, in particular the front row and the loose trio, were dominant in their first match against Kenya as they literally won almost all their scrums and line-out set pieces.
Mandenge will be hoping they can replicate their performance against Tunisians and lay the platform for the potent backline to attack.
Towering lock Fortune Chipendu is expected to make way for the versatile duo of Biselele Tshamala and Njabulo Ndlovu in the second row, a change which will give Sables both aggression and extra advantage at line-out.
Both are tall and strong jumpers.
In the loose trio, seasoned flank Jacques Leitao is expected to bounce back in the starting lineup after missing the first match.
Leitao will partner Norman Mukondiwa and Andrew Rose, who is a proven strong ball carrier and was Zimbabwe’s stand out performer against Kenya.
There were indications Mandenge could go for a new centre pairing in midfield with Boyd Rouse, who is a solid tackler and a strong ball carrier, partnering either Cleopas Makotose or Lenience Tambwera.
Zimbabwe will be favourites to maintain their unbeaten run against Tunisia having won all their previous three international matches against the North Africans since 1990.
The Sables first played Tunisia in 1990, winning the 24-13 in the capital, before registering a convincing 43-9 win against the same opponents eight years later at Hartsfield Stadium in Bulawayo.
Meanwhile, CBZ Holdings are expected to be unveiled as the official sponsors for the Sables ahead of their tie against Tunisia.
The sponsorship, which is expected to be unveiled at a press briefing this morning should come as a huge boost to the side which has struggled to attract sponsorship despite its success on the continent.
15. Tangai Nemadire, 14. Tafadzwa Chitokwindo, 13. Cleopas Makotose/Lenience Tambwera, 12. Boyd Rouse, 11. Gardner Nechironga, 10. Tichafara Makwanya (vice-captain), 9. Hilton Mudariki/Charles Jiji, 8. Norman Mukondiwa, 7. Jacques Leitao, 6. Andrew Rose, 5. Njabulo Ndlovu, 4. Biselele Tshamala, 3. Farai Mudariki, 2. Royal Mwale, 1. Denford Mutamangira (captain).