… as another top SA rugby franchise heads for Zim
CURRIE Cup giants, the Steval Pumas are scheduled to become the third South African rugby franchise to tour Zimbabwe this year when they visit the country next month for a friendly encounter against a local President’s XV side at Hartsfield Rugby Ground in Bulawayo on March 18.
The Pumas’forthcoming visit follows the successful tour by Super Rugby sides, — the Vodacom Bulls and the Toyota Cheetahs — for a pre-season clash played at the National Sports Stadium on February 6.
The two sides also paid a visit to Zimbabwe’s top tourist attraction, Victoria Falls and carried out a number of coaching clinics at local schools both in Harare and the resort town.
While details of the upcoming encounter are yet to be finalised, IndependentSport is informed that Kyros Sports, who were responsible for the bringing the Bulls and Cheetahs are also behind the upcoming visit by the Pumas. The last time Zimbabwe played against a South African side was in 2012 when they hosted the Johannesburg-based Currie Cup First Division side Valke at Harare Sports Club.
The match against Pumas is expected to give Sables coach Cyprian Mandenge an opportunity to have an early look at some of the locally-based players ahead of the Africa Cup competition starting in June.
Mandenge is building a squad for the World Rugby 2019 World Cup qualifiers after the Sables narrowly missed out in the 2015 finals’ qualifier.
The Pumas won the Currie Cup First Division (the second tier competition) in 2005, 2009 and 2013 before claiming last year’s Vodacom Cup title in 2015.
The Mpumalanga-based side is home to highly rated Sables loose forward Lambert Groenewald, who last played for Zimbabwe during the 2015 Rugby World Cup qualifiers in 2014.
The visit by the Pumas should mark what is expected to be a busy season for the domestic game whose major highlight is the World Rugby U20 Trophy competition which will take place from April 19 to May 1.
Zimbabwe is also expected to host at least two matches in the inaugural edition of South Africa’s premier club rugby tournament, the Gold Cup, later this year while the national flagship side, the Sables will also play Kenya and Uganda in July.
Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe Rugby Union (ZRU) Under-21 Cup, an Under-21 tournament largely comprising of developmental sides from Harare high-density suburbs continues this weekend with fixtures lined up at Alex Sports Club in the capital.
According to the draw released by ZRU, Pool A comprises of Alex 1, Hatcliffe, Old Hararians, Old Johanians and Seke/Zengeza while Pool B features Mbare, Alex 2, Mabvuku, Mbare Academy and Mufakose.