HARARE – After an underwhelming second half of the 2017 Castle Lager Premiership season, Black Rhinos are moving in to add depth to their squad by adding experienced players.
Chauya Chipembere were top of the log in the first half of the season but they lost their way and ended up finishing in seventh place some 26 points behind eventual champions FC Platinum.
In reality, Rhinos were closer to the relegation zone than the top four as they were just eight points above Harare City, who occupied the last place in the drop zone.
In that poor second half of the season, the army side picked up only three wins from 17 matches which ultimately cost coach Stanford “Stix” Mutizwa his job.
The club moved in to replace Mutizwa with former Dynamos juniors coach Herbert Maruwa, who is coming in from Swaziland after stints with Mbabane Citizens and Green Mambas.
After releasing Sydney Linyama and the retirement of former captain Brighton Chandisaita, the army side has signed former Dynamos captain Augustine Mbara.
The defender, who can play at centre back or left back, won four back-to-back titles with DeMbare between 2011 and 2014 before moving to South African side Highlands Park in 2015.
Mbara spent a single season in South Africa before terminating his contract by mutual consent with the Johannesburg-based side after falling out with coach Gordon Igesund.
The defender had a short stint with Malaysian top flight side PKNS before returning to Zimbabwe at the start of the year.
Upon his return, a number of clubs were after his signature and Rhinos had to beat the bids from ZPC Kariba and CAPS United to land the defender’s signature.
“He is now our player for next season,” Black Rhinos secretary-general Camble Sithole told the Daily News.
“… Mbara is an experienced player who has achieved a lot in local football. He is someone who is tried and tested.
“We needed someone of his stature in our team because if you look at last season, we lacked experience and depth towards the end of the season.”
The army side has also completed the signing of highly-rated forward Wellington Taderera from Shabanie Mine.
Taderera was the Chinda Boys’ top goal-scorer with seven goals last season as the Zvishavane-based side defied odds to survive relegation despite their well-documented financial troubles.
Without the 22-year-old’s goals, Shabanie could have surely gone down.
Taderera will provide back-up to forward Lot Chiwunga, who scored 12 goals last season.
The burden to get goals fell squarely on Chiwunga’s shoulders as there was no other Black Rhinos offensive player that found the back of the net on a regular basis.
Maruwa will be hoping the arrival of Taderera will give his side more attacking options when the 2018 season commences on March 10.
“We have also completed the signing of…Taderera from Shabanie Mine and there are still two or three more signings that we are still chasing,” Sithole said.
“I’m sure by Friday we will have concluded those deals in time to parade the new signings on Saturday when we take part in the testimonial to honour former chairperson lieutenant-general Engelbert Rugeje at Rufaro Stadium.”
There has been speculation that the army side was in talks with former Dynamos and Highlanders striker Roderick Mutuma to join the side but Sithole denied the rumours.
“It’s not true, we have not been in talks with Mutuma and he is not part of the players that we are in negotiations with,” the Rhinos boss said.
Mutuma spent the second half of last season on the books of Yadah FC but the club’s continued stay in the top flight is now in doubt.
Yadah proprietor Walter Magaya hinted recently that he was no longer in a position to continue bankrolling the side.
This has resulted in a number of the club’s marquee players being linked with moves elsewhere.
Star defender Dennis Dauda and the highly rated winger Leeroy Mavunga have been linked with Harare giants CAPS United.