Depleted Sables upbeat

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Young Sables prop Justin Mendelsohn (left) in action against Namibia during the Junior Africa Cup in Harare last year. Pic: Rugby Africa.

ZIMBABWE national 15s rugby team coach Cyprian Mandenge said his charges will throw everything at their opponents in search of a winning start to their Africa Cup Division 1A Championship campaign when they square off against Kenya at the Police Grounds tomorrow.

BY DANIEL NHAKANISO

The Sables head into tomorrow’s battle without several key players through injuries and club commitments, but Mandenge said they would not use that as an excuse and instead backed the team — largely made up of locally-based players — to get the job done.

“Obviously, the preparations have not been ideal because of injuries and not managing to get into camp, but we are not using that as an excuse,” Mandenge said yesterday.

“I believe despite the withdrawals and injuries we have come up with a balanced side which was chosen purely on ability. These are the guys who have been doing well in our local league as well as at training so I have confidence in them. They are hungry and have been working hard in training so we are definitely going all-out for a win.

“Some of the guys who are in the squad want to prove that they deserve to be in the team,” Mandenge said.

Traditionally the Sables have dominated Kenya in the forwards department, where their physical and structured style of rugby has carried them through in contrast to their opponents’ expansive, running rugby.

Last year, the Sables proved too strong against Kenya winning 28-20 at Prince Edward School to improve their impressive record to 12 wins in the 16 matches they have played against the East African side since 1981.

But Mandenge said while it would be important for his charges to front up in defence, he was wary of being too one dimensional and was aiming to dominate their opponents in all areas of the game.

“Yes in the past they have struggled to match us upfront but at the same time we don’t want to be too one-dimensional. Our aim is to be more dynamic and not base our play on the forwards, we know they will be prepared for us but we will definitely throw everything at them,” Mandenge said.

The Sables will be eager to get their campaign off to a winning start after their fierce rivals Namibia started their title defence by edging Uganda 40-31 in their first round match.

The Namibians — who qualified for last year’s Rugby World Cup — have won the last two editions of the Africa Cup in 2014 and 2015 while Zimbabwe’s only continental title so far came in 2012.

The tournament is being played in a league format where the team that finishes at the top will be the African champion while the bottom team gets relegated to Division 1B in 2017.

The second round of matches will see Zimbabwe host Uganda in Bulawayo on July 23 while Kenya travel to Namibia on July 16.

The final round of matches are set for July 30 and August 6 when Kenya will entertain Uganda while Zimbabwe battle it out with rivals Namibia who beat them 80-6 last year.

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