HARARE – Zimbabwean rugby selectors have continued to spread their net wider in search of local talent dotted around the globe as the Sables seek to return to the Rugby World Cup for the first time in 21 years.
The selectors named an expanded squad of 50 made up of a wide range of players ahead of Zimbabwe’s tour of Namibia next month for an invitational tri-nation tournament also involving the hosts and continental champions Kenya.
The Sables will play in a final qualification tournament in Madagascar next June for a place at the 2015 World Cup in England, but the Namibia trip is of more immediate interest for Brendan Dawson’s team.
The Namibia tour will be the first assignment for Zimbabwe since a turmoil-hit Sables relinquished their African title to Kenya in June following an impasse between senior players and the union, which prevented the players from touring.
And now with the ZRU making concerted efforts to patch up differences with the players, an encouraging aspect is that the bulk of the dissenting players have been included in the training squad.
Of the uncapped foreign-based contingent, the most notable inclusion is fly-half Guy Cronje, who has caught the eye in his cameo appearances for the Lions in the Currie Cup this season. There was no place though for his twin brother, Ross, who plays alongside him at scrumhalf for the Johannesburg franchise.
Also called up and in line to receive his first test cap is ex-Young Sables lock Michael Passaportis, who now plays for Valance in the fourth division of French rugby.
The England-based pair of Jersey eighthman Kingsley Lang and Blackheath centre Sean Moen are also some of the players being lured back home to be part of the World Cup dream.
Fit-again livewire Manasah Sita, who has returned to action after suffering an ankle injury last year, will also bring bite to the Sables backline.
Overall, the selectors have looked into the future, with such experienced players as utility forward Prayer Chitenderu and scrumhalf Tichaona Chidongo being overlooked and perhaps marking the end of their international careers. Chidongo and fellow veteran Costa Dinha were outstanding in the National Rugby League final on Saturday despite being on the wrong side of 30, helping the Old Boys win their first league title in eight years.
There is a degree of experience though in the form of returnee Alfred Sairai, the Old Hararians prop who despite still being 30, has won five league title with the Green Machine spreading over a period of 10 years.
Star backs Daniel Hondo and Tichafara Makwanya alongside forwards Jacques Leitao and Fortune Chipendo are also some of the elder statesmen of the team who are expected to be around by 2015.
Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe Rugby Union (ZRU) has roped in Old Georgians player-coach Grant Mitchell into the national side’s technical department.
Mitchell, a former ZRU general manager, will assume his new position as strength and conditioning coach for the Namibia tour.
Fitness enthusiast Mitchell, who earned three test caps for Zimbabwe at flyhalf, is a sports science degree holder and IRB-sanctioned strength and conditioning coach. He will work closely with Sables coach Brendan Dawson and his assistant Cyprian Mandenge.
The Sables will camp in Bulawayo from October 21 to November 4 before flying out to Windhoek on November 6 via Harare.
Tatenda Murwira (OH), Kudzai Mudzekenyedzi (Mat Warriors), Fidel Nyabusha (HSC), Denford Mutamangira (Glasgow Warriors, Scotland), Nick Winwood (Blackheath, England), Alfred Sairai (OH), Pieter Joubert (OGs), Jakov Jakov (OGs), Keith Murray (OGs), Royal Mwale (Ballito Dolphins, SA), Sanele Sibanda (Harlequins, SA), Jan Ferreira (Mat Warriors), Simbarashe Bwanya (College Rovers, SA), Costa Dinha (OH), Michael Passaportis (Valence, France), Kingsley Lang (Jersey, England), Fortune Chipendo (OGs) Jacques Leitao (OGs), Tawanda Chowe (OH), Andrew Rose (Boroughmuir, Scotland), Biselele Tshamala (Varsity College, SA), Lucky Sithole (Mat Warriors), Njabulo Ndlovu (University of Western Cape, SA), Phil Machisa (HSC), Ian Armstrong (OGs), Hilton Mudariki (Amersham & Chiltern, England), Teddy Hwata (HSC), Guy Cronje (Lions, SA), Boyd Rouse (OGs), Lenience Tambwera (HSC), Tichafara Makwanya (OH), Garth Ziegler (OGs), Daniel Hondo (HSC), Tatas Mutataguta (OGs), Simbarashe Chirimuuta (HSC), Leroy Mashiri (OH), Sean Moen (Blackheath, England), Takudzwa Chieza (OH), Manasah Sita (RG Heidelberg, Germany), Patrick Tenesi (OH), Shayne Makombe (HSC), Tafadzwa Chitokwindo (Varsity College, SA), Gardner Nechironga (OH), Kudakwashe Chiwanza (OGs), Lungile Tshuma (OH), Tangai Nemadire (OH), Courtney Mwatsiya (Mat Warriors).