Tadious Manyepo Sports Reporter
ZIMBABWE have won the bid to host the Pool B of the annual Junior World Rugby Trophy Africa qualifiers to be staged in April.
This is the first time the country will be hosting this Under-20 event.
The Junior Trophy World Rugby Trophy finals will be held later this year at a venue still to be determined but only one country from Pool A will represent Africa in the global showcase.
Zimbabwe were relegated from Pool A last year and will have to be at their best in the one week-long tournament if they are to reclaim their place in the elite pool.
Only group toppers will be elevated to Pool A where they will replace the bottom-placed team in that segment.
And Zimbabwe will be banking on home advantage to pull through the section which also has Ivory Coast, Morocco and Madagascar.
Zimbabwe Rugby Union president Aaron Jani said the tournament will be hosted in Harare at a school venue yet to be named to allow pupils to rally behind the team.
“We are happy that we were given the mandate to host the annual Junior World Rugby Trophy Africa qualifiers.
“The decision was announced at the executive meeting held just after the Cape Town Sevens Series late last year,” said Jani.
“We are in Pool B along with Madagascar, Ivory and Madagascar. Our group is a non-World championship qualifier but it will be very critical for us to win the Pool as the winners are guaranteed a place in the Pool A which will then give us a chance to fight for a place in the Junior World Rugby Trophy.
“We have decided to stage the tournament in Harare at a school venue to allow students to rally behind the team. We have also taken cognisant of the fact that most of the Under 20 players who will be doing duty for us are schoolchildren and it will be good for them to play at familiar territory.”
Bob Mahari has been given the task to lead the team for the April contest and he will be assisted by Jeff Madhake.
The pair has since trimmed the provisional squad of 50 players to 30.
The team has already intensified the preparations for the tournament.
They are holding training sessions twice a week as they try to keep shape ahead of the tournament which is expected to be tough especially given the physical ability of players from Ivory Coast and the technical prowess of the Moroccans.
With the Under-21 national league scheduled to commence later this month, Jani said the ZRU is considering that the national team be part of the competition to enhance the state of their preparedness.
“The Under-21 league will be kicking off in a few weeks’ time. We are considering that the national Under-20 team to join the league. We believe by doing that, we will be exposing the lads to more competition.
“We may also get them some friendly matches to prepare for the tournament. The fact that we will be at home should give us a chance to top the Pool and get promoted to the prestigious Pool A.
“Our immediate task is to get promoted to Pool A and then next year we try to qualify for the Junior World Championships. We have previously done that for four times since the annual event was introduced in 2007.”
Pool A matches will be held in Kenya where the hosts, Namibia and Tunisia will be battling for the sole ticket to represent the continent at the global fiesta.
On the other hand, Uganda, Algeria, Zambia and Ghana will be fighting for promotion into Pool B. The venue for the Pool C games is still to be decided.
Source : The Herald