FORMER Springbok wing Tonderai Chavhanga has spoken of his delight at the “exciting and versatile” Zimbabwe Academy backline ahead of the side’s SuperSport Rugby Challenge clash with SWD Eagles in Mossel Bay on Sunday.
By Enock Muchinjo
The pace and flair of the Zimbabwean team’s backs is something spectators have been eagerly looking forward to see in this tournament, especially with the involvement of the four-time capped Boks livewire — who is helping out his country of birth in an assistant coach role in South Africa’s second-tier domestic rugby competition.
Zimbabwe have made tactical backline changes ahead of Sunday’s tie.
The SuperSport Challenge debutants will try out a new-look centre partnership in the form of Kudzai Mashawi and Takudzwa Chieza after sticking with the combination of Riaan O’Neill and Shingi Katsvere for Zimbabwe’s first two games of the tournament.
While the robust O’Neill gets a rest this weekend, Katsvere switches to his familiar fullback position, where he played for Zimbabwe in last year’s World Cup qualifiers.
Speedster Kuda Chiwanza, the fullback for Zimbabwe’s first two games, slots in at right wing to cover for the rested Takudzwa Kumadiro.
Matthew McNab, among seven Zimbabwean players to start all matches so far in the competition, remains at left wing.
“We are fortunate to have such an exciting backline,” Chavhanga told IndependentSport. “We believe that it’s important to give everyone a chance to play as well as trying different combinations. Due to the fact that we can only have two back reserves, it’s important that our backs are versatile.”
Meanwhile, scrumhalf Hilton Mudariki makes his SuperSport Rugby Challenge run-on debut on Sunday while captain Brandon Mandivenga has failed to recover for the tie after missing last week’s 36-14 defeat to Sharks with an ankle injury.
Mudariki, who turns out for English second-tier side Jersey Reds, was on the bench during the Zimbabwean team’s much-improved performance last weekend against Sharks, having arrived in South Africa from the UK two days before the meeting with the Durban side.
The talented 27-year-old halfback takes the place of Kuziwa Kazembe in the number 9 shirt while Mandivenga’s injury woes means Jerry Jaravaza keeps his place at fly-half.
Veteran lock forward Jan Ferreira will captain the side again in the absence of Mandivenga.
There has been six changes overall in the starting XV and positional switches in the backline.
Three of the six changes are in the forwards pack. Neil Mawere replaces Royal Mwale at hooker, Biselele Tshamala makes the starting line-up at blind-side flank to elbow out Blithe Mavesere, while eighthman Aiden Burnett returns to the side to reclaim his place from the experienced Njabulo Ndlovu.
Zim starting line-up
15. Shingi Katsvere 14. Kuda Chiwanza 13. Kudzai Mashawi 12. Takudzwa Chieza 11. Matthew McNab 10. Jeremiah Jaravaza 9. Hilton Mudariki 8. Aiden Burnett 7. Brian Nyaude 6. Biselele Tshamala 5. Godwin Mangenje 4. Jan Ferreira (captain) 3. Cleopas Kundiona 2. Neil Mawere 1. Tyran Fagan.
Subs: 16. Matthew Mandioma 17. Brandon Sweet, 18. George Saungweme 19. Godfrey Muzanarwo 20. Dustin Andrews 21. Ernest Mudzengerere 22. Kuwiza Kazembe.