UNDER-PRESSURE Sables coach Peter De Villiers has named a largely unchanged squad despite struggling Zimbabwe facing easily their toughest test when they host Namibia in a Rugby Africa Gold Cup tie at Hartsfield next weekend.
The Sables, now in a desperate bid to avoid relegation, will host their old rivals, who have virtually run away with the African ticket to the 2019 World Cup in Japan.
The Namibians remain unbeaten and look well on course to end their qualification bid with a 100 percent record.
Without a win to show for all their Word Cup aspirations, the Sables now have only two games to salvage their pride.
They have a home tie against Namibia and their final group game away to Uganda in Kampala on August 18.
Their showdown against the Cranes of Uganda looks set to be the decisive match that could see De Villiers’ men being demoted into the silver group or remaining in the elite Gold Cup.
After a two-week break that followed their surprise defeat by Tunisia away the Sables regrouped in Harare on Thursday with De Villiers naming a 26-man squad.
Team manager Dereck Chiwara, in releasing the squad yesterday, said the Sables would shift their camp to Bulawayo on Monday night.
Zimbabwe Rugby Union general manager, Sifiso Made, said the Sables would be granted an off day on Monday to go and cast their votes in the July 30 harmonised elections.
“The squad has been in camp since Thursday but they will break on Sunday so that everyone can go to their constituencies and exercise their right to vote on Monday.
‘’After voting, they will travel to Bulawayo on Monday night where they will stay for the remainder of their camp,’’ Made said.
From the team that took to the field on their farcical tour of Tunisia, De Villiers has dropped forward Johannes Stander, wing Dylan Baptista, Peter Du Toit and Lawrence Cleminson.
The former Springboks coach has brought in Antipas Kamkwindo, Irvine Nduwa and called up Cheetahs’ World Cup wing Shayne Makombe while handing recalls to Connor Pritchard, Jeremiah Jaravaza and scrumhalf Hilton Mudariki.
German-based star wing Tafadzwa Chitokwindo has also been included although his availability remains in doubt amid revelations that he had flown back to his base on Wednesda.
Mudariki also remains a huge doubt after the scrumhalf was excused from the Sevens World Cup in order to allow him to settle at his new English club.
But Hilton’s young brother and tighthead prop Farai is still available for Sables duties despite being signed by Worcester Warriors for the 2018-19 season.
The 23 year-old is now on the books of French side Stado Tarbes Pyrenees.
Farai told The Herald that his new club authorities were aware that he would only move next month after concluding his national team duties with the Sables. De Villiers will also have former Zimbabwe international Daniel Hondo as his right hand man for the Sables’ remaining two games following the demotion of Brendon Dawson to the development structures.
“What we decided, in agreement with the coach, was that since there are two games left and the coach will use whoever he can from the crew of local coaches that we have and at the moment it is Daniel Hondo
“He is a former Sables backline star and he also holds a Level 2 certificate so the coach knows best in what specific areas he wants his assistance.’’