HARARE – The Zimbabwe national rugby team seems to be in high spirits despite the controversy that rocked the squad after a revolt by senior player ahead of their defence of the Car African Cup.
The Zimbabwe Rugby Union (ZRU) axed 10 players, who include captain Costa Dinha, experienced centre Cleopas Makotose, flyhalf Tichafara Makwanya as well as the wing pairing of Tangai Nemadire and Gardner Nechironga from the squad after a row over team manager Losson Mtongwiza.
A youthful Sables squad left yesterday for Madagascar where the Group 1A tournament starts on Wednesday with Zimbabwe taking on the hosts.
Newly-appointed Sables skipper and loose forward Jacques Leitao was optimistic about the task at hand.
“We are looking to win in Madagascar and to retain the cup. That’s our main aim. It is very achievable,” Leitao told the Daily News before the team left for the Indian Ocean Island.
“I think the guys in this squad are more than capable of carrying and wearing the Sables jersey with pride. I’m sure we will be able to carry the nation forward.”
Sables coach Brendon Dawson is likely to bank on the experience in the pack of forwards in the squad.
A number of the forwards in the team have played together in recent encounters and they are likely to be a cohesive unit in Madagascar.
Cambridge lock Martin Wolfenden, College Rovers lock Simbarashe Bwanya, utility front row Dainel Nhepera and former Zimbabwe Under-19 captain Andrew Rose are the only uncapped forwards.
The Sables’ stronghold has always been in the backline but it seems these days it is very thin heading into the continental cup.
The most capped players in the backline are wing Kudakwashe Chiwanza and fly half Lenience Tamberwa, who all sit at seven caps each.
Garth Ziegler, Boyd Rous and Craig Elcombe will be among the new backs that will earn their first caps in Madagascar.
Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe schools side left the country yesterday morning to participate in the 50th edition of the Craven Week Tournament in South Africa.
The Zimbabwe coach Godwin “Jaws” Murambiwa said: “Our main focus is to be competitive and with the first game against Griquas Country District it will make our lives easy going forward.
Forwards: Daniel Nhepera, Tapiwa Mangezi, Piet Joubert, Jakov Jakov, Keith Murray, Simbarashe Mandioma, Sanele Sibanda, Jan Ferreira, Simba Bwanya, Martin Wolfenden, Jacques Leitao, Andrew Rose, Biselele Tshamala, Njabulo Ndlovu.
Backs: Phil Machisa, Kilvan Magunje, Boyd Rouse, Lenience Tambwera, Garth Ziegler, , Shane Makombe, Steven Hunduza, Tafadzwa Chitokwindo, Craig Elcombe, Kudakwashe Chiwanza.