SABLES coach Brendan Dawson admits his side still have a lot of work to do to improve their conditioning and fitness levels despite kick-starting their Rugby Africa Cup preparations with a comfortable 31-8 win over neighbours Zambia in a friendly encounter at the Machinery Exchange Stadium at Harare Sports Club on Wednesday.
Playing in their first match in 20 months, Dawson’s men enjoyed a strong start with four unanswered tries in the first half before falling away in the second half in which they were outscored 7-8 by the visitors, who managed a penalty and a try in response to Zimbabwe’s converted try.
While Dawson was pleased with the result, he admits his charges will have to improve ahead of tougher back-to-back Tests against rivals Namibia later this month and the Africa Cup matches in Tunisia next month.
“Obviously, it feels great to win; 31-8 is a nice comfortable scoreline, but I’m not really happy with how it’s all gone, we have got a lot of work to do, and fitness is included,” Dawson said.
“Obviously, our match fitness is massive because we haven’t played in two years, so there’s a hell of a lot of work to do between now and before we leave for Tunisia.”
The former Zimbabwe captain, who is aiming to lead the Sables to their first Rugby World Cup qualification in three decades by leading the side to the 2023 tournament to be played in France, was pleased with the manner in which his charges came off the blocks in the first 20 minutes.
In fact, he feels they could have scored more than the four tries they managed in the first half if they had been more clinical and would be looking for a more polished performance when they meet the same opponents at the same venue on Saturday.
“We started off really nicely in the first 20 minutes; we had some nice shape and patterns going, things were looking good for us … Even though the scoreline didn’t reflect it but we were dominating and it was just those final passes that were not going to hand, but that’s what we have got to rectify in our next game on Saturday. We have got to make sure we are a bit more clinical and accurate in those,” he said.
Dawson named three uncapped players in his starting 15 with Sharks Academy livewire winger Darrel Makwasha, the New Zealand-based duo of loose head prop Doug Juszczyk and centre Brandon Mudzekenyedzi making their first appearances for the team.
Rising star Mudzekenyedzi set the Sables on their way with a try in the corner while Juszczyk also enjoyed a memorable debut by scoring two tries.
The 30-year-old Juszczyk, who left Zimbabwe for New Zealand at the age of 14 before rising through the ranks to feature for the development team of Super Rugby franchise Hurricanes, described his home bow at Harare Sports Club as a dream come true.
“It was just a dream come true. I was just overcome with emotion in the change rooms before the game realising that the dream has come true and I’m representing my country. There is no better privilege than that.
“The boys really put up a good effort, all things considered today, it’s been two years since we played so they have done really well. We will continue to work on our fitness and come back for the next game and smash it,” he said.