THE Zimbabwe Sevens Rugby team is in Dubai for the IRB Sevens World Cup next week. Below are profiles of the 12-man squad:
Jacques Leitao, captain
Jacques brings his powerful play, pace and grit from XVs rugby. He is quick at the breakdown at XVs, and uses that pace remarkably well as the leader of the Cheetahs front-row.
The 26-year-old Mutare-born still plays his rugby in Zimbabwe at the Mashonaland Country Districts.
A veteran of the side at only 24, tall prop Fortune Chipendo (lock, flanker or eighthman at XVs) used to struggle to compete in the XVs pack because of lack of weight.
Now tipping the scales at over 100kgs, he now brings a formidable proportion to the Zimbabwe Sevens three-man pack. From humble beginnings in dusty Mabvuku, Chipendo is now based in the UK playing for Cheltenham Rugby Club, a club coached by his national team coach Liam Middleton.
The star of the team in the last three tournaments, Gardner is a versatile player who has played both in the backs and forwards at XVs, but has now settled on the wing or centre at the Petersburg Rugby Club in South Africa.
The lean 23-year-old from Bulawayo has a sharp turn of pace, and as a prop at Sevens, he combines that with his combativeness to keep the opposing pack on its toes.
Silethokuhle “Slater” Ndlovu
Another veteran of the side, the 29-year-old front-rower is a stabilising factor in the side with his vast experience. Slater is fit and strong and is an organiser in the team.
The Bulawayo-based player also has caps for the Sables as a flanker.
A steady front-rower, “Mitch” is rather slow for this version, but his outstanding physique and vision (he plays flyhalf at XVs) comes in handy in the heat and intensity of international Sevens.
The defence pillar of the side, centre Daniel Hondo is a complete rugby back. He is a strong crusher and runner, has good hands and is quite devastating given a sniff of gap. He could turn out to be one of the finds of the tournament.
Hondo graduated from the Hartpury College in the UK last year when he helped the College to two successive British Universities championships.
He also represented the Combined British Universities Select side. He is young brother to former Zimbabwe Test cricket bowler Douglas Hondo.
A slippery playmaker, Magasa has a slight built which helps him weave past markers with ease. His ball artistry is well known at XVs where he plays flyhalf or centre.
The former Harare Sports Club favourite now plies his trade at Musina in South Africa.
The former Churchill High and Zimbabwe Under 19 speedster has improved his game markedly at Falcons in South Africa.
A powerfully built young player with a nose for the try line, Sibanda gives the coach options at winger or centre, where he can burst through with his strong running. He plays both wing and centre at XVs.
The surprise of the team, many felt Ryan displaced Alex Ndangana from his deserved place in the World Cup team. But he is quite highly regarded by his coach, so should add value to the team. Manyika was born in Harare but grew up in the UK.Â
He has played for the Zimbabwe Under 19s as a scrumhalf, and his importance to the Cheetahs is that he provides cover to the playmaker and scrumhalf. He plays for the Harlequins club in England.
Inappropriately nicknamed “Too Bad” for a son of a magistrate, 24-year-old Nemadire is a livewire XVs winger or fullback. Full of pace and deceptive runs, he would seem wasted as scrumhalf at Sevens, but the authority with which he controls the scrum and set-pieces proves that’s his rightful place.
He plays in the Western Provinces Super League for Cape Town club Schotsche Kloof-Walmers, alongside teammate Cleopas Makotose.
The national XVs captain is a lion-hearted player who leads from the front and likes to take calculated risks.
The former Plumtree High icon’s forte is a dogged fighting spirit and self-belief which often sees him break the line from fullback on numerous occasions to score solo tries. “Jigga” is a centre at Sevens.
Wesley “Wes” Mbanje
The talisman of the team, winger Mbanje’s speed knows no bounds.
The Bulawayo-born player is considered in international circles as the man to watch in the Zimbabwe outfit: good hands, deft touch, explosive pace and renowned finishing prowess. Wes is based at Union Club in Johannesburg where he is a utility back.
BY ENOCK MUCHINJO