HARARE – The Zimbabwe Rugby Union yesterday named a weakened squad for two Tests against Namibia and Spain, the Sables’ sternest challenge in two years.
The Sables, who are unbeaten in seven Tests stretching over two years, take on hosts Namibia on Saturday in the opener of a Namibia Breweries-sponsored Tri-Nation Series before clashing with European side Spain on Wednesday.
While Sables selectors were not able to include the Scotland-based trio of Denford Mutamangira, Shingi Mpofu and Gerald Sibanda as well as the experienced Cape Town-based eighthman Norman Mukondiwa, coach Brendan Dawson will be delighted by the availability of star wing Wes Mbanje, who last played Test rugby for Zimbabwe three years ago.
Zimbabwe Sevens flyer Mbanje returns alongside regular Sables fullback Danny Robertson, who missed the Sables successful trip to Tunisia in June, where Zimbabwe won the African rugby title.
The Sables have included seven uncapped players in the 25-man squad.
Matabeleland Tuskers prop Tapiwa Mangezi, Wits University hooker Royal Mwale, Old Hararians prop Tinoziva Chikobvu, Old Hararians flank Fidel Nyabusha and Warriors back row Lucky Sithole are all joined by Old Hararians centre Gavin Nyawata as the new faces in the squad.
Zimbabwe are the lowest ranked of the three teams in the tournament. The Sables are set to leave for Windhoek today.
The Namibian team is hard at work in preparation for the Tri-Nations series.
Several players from abroad have already returned home to join the squad while several more are expected over the next few days.
Wings Sergio de la Harpe and McGrath van Wyk, scrumhalf Eugene Jantjies and flanker Renaud van Neel have flown in from Romania, while several more have flown in from South Africa.
They include wing Malcolm Moore, fullback Johan Theron and Western Province Under -21 flanker Stef Nel.
Others who will join the team in the coming days include fullback Chrysander Botha, flyhalf Theuns Kotze and flanker Tinus du Plessis.
Meanwhile, the president of the Namibian Rugby Union, Bradley Basson, said Namibia had been invited by the International Rugby Board to compete in Europe next month but they decided to rather host a series at home. “This tournament is an accredited test series of the IRB.
We were invited to Europe, but we decided to host a tournament at home so that we can bring more international rugby to our fans at home and so that we can start filling our stadiums. I remain positive that we will get rugby in Namibia back on track,” he said.
“I am positive we will host a very successful tournament which will improve our chances of hosting the CAR 1B World Cup qualifying tournament next year.
“It is however, vital that we provide the necessary game time to our players so that they are ready when the time comes,” he said.
The CEO of the NRU Sybrand de Beer said the IRB would sponsor the flight tickets of Spain, while the South African Rugby Union would provide referees and technical support.
Forwards: Costa Dinha (captain) Tapiwa Mangezi, Pieter Joubert, Jan Ferreira, Vakai Hove, Royal Mwale, Tinoziva Chikobvu, Fortune Chipendo, Biselele Tshamala, Fidel Nyabusha, Lucky Sithole, Takunda Chifokoyo, Samson Makuku.
Backs: Scotty Jones, Phil Machisa, Lenience Tambwera, Tichafa Makwanya, Wes Mbanje, Jafet Ndebele, Daniel Hondo, Danny Robertson, Shane Makombe, Gavin Nyawata, Tangai Nemadire, Gardner Nechironga. – Sports Writer