By Petros Kausiyo
AFTER several weeks of training camps at home and in South Africa, Zimbabwe’s Sables have moved into the final phase of their preparations in the capital as they seek to get their Rugby Africa 2018 Gold Cup campaign off with victory over Morocco.
The Sables will host the North Africans in Group 1A encounter at 1.30pm at Harare Sports Club on Saturday afternoon.
Rugby Africa are using this year’s Gold Cup as qualifiers for the 2019 World Cup and this has added so much significance to the competition.
There is also a huge wave of expectations within the domestic rugby family around the Sables as Saturday’s match presents revered coach Peter De Villiers with his first competitive game in charge of a national team that is on a revival mission after stuttering into the abyss in the last few years.
De Villiers has been charmed by the warm reception he has received from Zimbabweans since Aaron Jani’s leadership lured the former Springboks coach to take of the national team in February.
Now, after his landmark appointment, De Villiers has named his squad, which regrouped on Sunday and have been going their drills under his watchful eye.
They were also together at the High Performance Centre in Pretoria with the only addition being that of the highly-rated Pumas lock Jannie Stander.
The 61-year-old coach, with years of experience in this demanding job, has been found a way to absorb any form of pressure and has instead cast a relaxed figure and told Sables TV that he was happy with the how his charges have progressed
The Zimbabwe Rugby Union have since then gone on a marketing offensive by luring different corporate partners for the Sables, and the game at large, and amid the reported buoyancy in their camp the senior team know that they will be will now come under the spotlight on Saturday.
ZRU vice-president Lawson Mtongwiza said they were aware that every nation in the Rugby Africa Group 1A was keen on claiming the ticket to the World Cup.
“Morocco are taking the game seriously and are now in the country. We are taking the match seriously hence the preparations we have been making and I think this is the most competitive Group 1A set up ever.
“The Kenyans are there and want to qualify, not forgetting the Namibians and Uganda who will also be in with a shout.
“Most of the unions have brought top notch coaches and we have also done the same and this underlines the importance that all the teams in the group are attaching to these qualifiers,” Mtongwizo said.
He said the ZRU would continue to lobby for government support for the national game.
“Some of the unions like Kenya and Namibia are luckier in that they have a lot of government support, the Kenyan government has underwritten all their national team’s costs and we believe that team Zimbabwe needs that too,” Mtongwiza said.
The Sables, using the mantra “eyes on the prize,” have also been rallying the nation to come and back them in their opening game on Saturday.
Assistant coach Brendan Dawson declared the Sables ready for the campaign and believes that, “It’s going to be a great start to our World Cup campaign”.