Petros Kausiyo Deputy Sports Editor
ZIMBABWE Rugby Union will get the first insight into their national team’s rebuilding exercise tomorrow when the Academy side plunges into battle with cagey assignment against Border Bulldogs in the SuperSport Challenge in South Africa.
Coach Brendon Dawson’s men will make their SuperSport Challenge bow when they line up against the Bulldogs at the Sisa Dukashe Stadium, East London.
The match kicks off at 2.30pm.
With the 2019 Rugby Africa Gold Cup having been shelved after the tournament’s sponsors, Kwese, withdrew, the ZRU had to resort to the SuperSport Challenge to kick-start an audacious rebuilding exercise.
Union president Aaron Jani is confident it will culminate in qualification for the 2023 World Cup.
Namibia and Zimbabwe are the only teams from outside South Africa to compete in the SuperSport Challenge.
“Being our first game there could be some teething issues that might come out – which we have to iron out and get right,’’ said coach Brendan Dawson.
‘’We have only been together for five days and this is going to be a hard one and guys have come from all over the world and parts of Africa to come into camp.
“Preparations have been a bit tight and we have got to understand that we can’t kill the guys who are playing, so time on the paddock has been spent really well and we have been trying to get patterns and everything together.
“Yes, it is going to be tough and the guys are really excited to get out there to show their flair and skills.’’
The Border Bulldogs are known to play a running game and are renowned for their ball handling skills but Dawson insists they have plans to counter that.
“We have got our defence pattern that we are going to stick to and we want to deprive them of the ball.
‘’We want to be in control of the ball movement through our defence – we want to keep the ball when we have it and when they have it we want to regain the ball as quickly as possible’’ Dawson said.
The technical team also includes former Springboks speed king Tonderai Chavhanga and they have made a few positional changes and moved Kudakwashe Chiwanza from wing to fullback while regular fullback Shingirai Katsvere has also been shifted to centre.
Dawson says some of his decisions had been inspired from his observation of the players when they did duty with the Sevens side – the Cheetahs.
“Both these players are from the Sevens circuit and Kudakwashe Chiwanza is a hell of an exciting rugby player, he loves a bit of space and loves a bit of room on the outside, he has incredible pace and skill.
“I also want us to the run the ball a bit quicker and be able to be confident to run into positions where people do not expect us to.
‘’Shingirai Katsvere is a great player, he has put on some size and he is in good condition as one of our stars in Sevens.
“Playing him (Katsvere) as our outside centre is a real blessing because he has good defence and great in attack – he has got good footwork so he can get on the outside and I am very confident that he will be able to do that for us,” said Dawson.
The coach named his starting side for tomorrow’s assignment.
Zimbabwe Academy team:
Forwards: 1. Wade Petzer 2. Royal Mwale 3. Cleopas Kundiona 4. Kudakwashe Nyakufaringwa 5. Jan Ferreira 6. Jordon Coombes 7. Brian Nyaude 8. Aiden Burnett 9. Kuzi Kazembe
Backs: 10. Brendon Mandivenga 11. Matthew McNab 12. Riaan O’Neil 13. Shingirai Katsvere 14. Takudzwa Kumadiro 15. Kudakwashe Chiwanza
Reserves: Tinashe Chaza, Tyron Fagan, Godwin Mangenje, Godfrey Muzanarwo Ndlovu, Jeremiah Jaravaza, Kudzai Mashawi