BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
SABLES head coach Brendan Dawson is quietly confident of his team’s chances of causing an upset against Brazil in the opening match of the Stellenbosch Quadrangular Series in South Africa on Sunday despite his side being ranked nine places below their South American opponents.
Brazil, who are ranked 26th on the World Rugby rankings are the pre-match favourites to beat the number 35 ranked Sables in the opening match of the four-nation tournament, which will also feature Kenya and Namibia.
Zimbabwe will also have to make do without the services of several key players based around the world who did not make the trip to South Africa due to a combination of travel restrictions and club commitments.
Despite the odds stacked against his team Dawson believes his charges are well capable of getting a positive result in the match, where the winner will take on the victors of the other contest pitting Namibia and Kenya.
The former Sables skipper, who is aiming to qualify for the World Cup both as a player and coach, said he is happy with the team’s preparations after an intense training camp at the Stellenbosch Academy for Sport followed by a high profile contact session match against the Free State Cheetahs.
“The camp has gone well and I’m very happy…the guys have trained hard, we really worked at what we need to do against Brazil,” Dawson said ahead of the match,” Dawson said.
“Yes Brazil are ranked 26th in the world and we are ranked 35th so it’s going to be a big contest but the guys are confident. They’re positive and eager to put on a good performance and make sure that they take the game to the Brazilians and beat them.
“We are confident in our structures, in our players and what we are aiming to do against them and hopefully the outcome will be good,” he said.
The Sables were reminded of the amount of work to be done before their Quadrangular Series opener against Brazil after losing 78-7 to a rampant Free State Cheetahs in a high profile warm-up game at the Toyota Stadium in Bloemfontein yesterday.
Zimbabwe’s senior national rugby side were using the match against the South African franchise as an opportunity to gain some competitive match fitness against top notch professional opponents ahead of the upcoming four nation tournament which gets underway in Stellenbosch, South Africa next week.
The Sables put on a much better first half performance as they stood toe to toe with their stronger opponents which was reflected in the 24-7 halftime scoreline.
However the Free State Cheetahs, who fielded two 15-man teams in the contact session match, were much stronger in the second half, exposing the huge gulf in quality between the two sides.
Dawson said he was not focused on the overall result during the Cheetahs warm up game which provided his charges with an opportunity to work on their team combinations.
“I was very happy with what happened at the Cheetahs, obviously it wasn’t a results-driven game so we went out there to practice a lot of our plans and what we want to achieve against the Brazilians,” he said
“Obviously not everything went our way and we did struggle in certain areas but I was happy with the outcome of certain areas. We can now work on other areas to make sure we are ready for Brazil.
The Sables technical team is expected to announce the squad to face Brazil today.
Forwards: Tyron Fagan, Deanne Makoni, Royal Mwale, George Saungweme, Tapiwa Tsomondo, Cleopas Kundiona, Sean Beevor, Biselele Tshamala, Godfrey Muzanargwo, Aiden Burnett, Tonderai Chiwambutsa, Charles Gamhiwa, Bornwell Gwinji, Godwin Mangenje, Victor Mapunga.
Backs: Hilton Mudariki, Dudlee White-Sharpley, Keith Chiwara, Takudzwa Chieza, Darrel Makwasha, Takudzwa Kumadiro, Riaan O’Neill, Brandon Mudzekenyedzi, Shingirai Katsvere, Martin Mangongo, Tapiwa Mafura.