Petros Kausiyo Deputy Sports Editor
AFTER months of intense preparations, Peter De Villiers has named his Sables starting XV for his competitive match in charge and the coach insisted yesterday that tomorrow’s Rugby Africa Gold Cup clash against Morocco is not about any individual but the country.
Zimbabwe will begin their Gold Cup Group 1A campaign with a lunch-time kick-off against the North Africans at the Machinery Exchange Rugby Stadium at Harare Sports Club.
The former Springboks coach will come the spotlight, not just for tomorrow’s match, but the entire campaign as he guides his Sables on an adventure to try and qualify for the 2019 World Cup in Japan.
De Villiers announced a strong 23-man side, which he believes can take on any side on their day but maintained the Sables’ opener tomorrow will be more about a nation yearning for the revival of its flagship rugby team.
The 61-year-old coach also made a big call in dropping some of the players he had in his enlarged squad but seemed to have been swayed by the skills of the material at his disposal and the desire to blend youth and experience.
“It was more difficult to leave out four players than to select the team but I believe in this team. These are the guys that can deliver. The squad can meet any team,’’ De Villiers said.
To their credit captain Denford Mutamangira and his troops have so far impressed De Villiers and assistant coach Brendan Dawson during their training camps.
“The biggest challenge was to get them ready and I think they are ready to do the job. This game is not about me, it is never about any individual at this stage, it is about the country,’’ the coach said.
“I can even step aside or fly to Morocco tomorrow and the guys will still do the same thing.
‘’Everybody feels there is hope for this country through sport and I enjoy working with these players so much that every morning I look forward to being with them.’’
In his blend of youth and experience, De Villiers has also thrown into battle some debutantes who include wing Mathew Mcnab and forward Farai Mudariki.
Farai Mudariki will play alongside his elder brother and scrumhalf Hilton.
“I have a few guys that are making their debut but I am happy for them. Zimbabweans are natural athletes.
‘’Zimbabweans are natural athletes but we have tried to make them quicker.
“The forwards like that physical contact and the backs like that flair. If the players show us what they have shown at training, then there is going to be a real contest.
‘’Most of the players that we have identified are made for tough contests and we will grow as the campaign gets tougher,’’ De Villiers said.
Dawson, who has captained and coached the Sables in his glittering career with Zimbabwe rugby, was brimming with confidence.
“Our forwards are ready for confrontation. People underestimate the quality of the players we have and we have big and talented players… the forwards like that physical contact,’’ Dawson said.
But given the huge size of the North Africans, the Sables may have to bank on their pace and flair to turn on the magic tomorrow.
1. Denford Mutamangira, 2. David Makanda, 3. Farai Mudariki, 4. Kudakwashe Nyakufaringwa, 5. Fortune Chipendu, 6. Takudzwa Mandiwanza, 7. Connor Pritchard, 8. Tapfuma Parirenyatwa, 9. Hilton Mudariki, 10. Lenience Tambwera, 11. Matthew McNab, 12.Brendon Mandivenga, 13. Kudzai Mashawi, 14. Takudzwa Kumadiro, 15. Shingi Katsvere
Replacements: 16. Mathew Mandioma, 17. Gabriel Sipapate, 18. Lawrence Cleminson, 19. Brian Nyaude, 20. Njabulo Ndlovu, 21. Peter du Toit, 22. Ngoni Chibuwe, 23. Dylan Baptista