ZIMBABWE Rugby Union (ZRU) director of rugby Brighton Chivandire believes hosting the World Rugby Under-20 Trophy provides the country with an opportunity to build the core of the senior national side capable of qualifying for the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.
BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
Zimbabwe came agonisingly close to qualifying for their first World Cup in 22 years, only to miss out to perennial nemesis Namibia on points difference during the continental qualifiers in Madagascar two years ago.
Now with their sights firmly set on qualifying for the next edition of the global showpiece in three years’ time, Chivandire believes the upcoming World Rugby Under-20 Trophy might just be the catalyst the country needs to build a strong side for the future.
“The objective is to create a group of players that will love to play together going beyond the Under-20 trophy,” Chivandire said ahead of the start of the tournament on Tuesday.
“When you look at the current Sables and Cheetahs sides, you see the legacy of the World Under-20 Trophy. You see the likes of Tafadzwa Chitokwindo, Lenience Tambwera and Charles Jiji, among others, shining at senior level, having come through the Under-20,” he said.
The World Rugby Under-20 Trophy competition acts as a platform for players to progress to senior international level.
This year’s tournament gets underway on Tuesday at Harare Sports Club, with the hosts, Zimbabwe, joined by seven other nations namely Fiji, Hong Kong, Namibia, Samoa, Spain, the United States and Uruguay in the second-tier U20 competition, won last year by Georgia.
Zimbabwe has been drawn in Pool A alongside former competition winners Uruguay, Samoa and Fiji.
The other pool comprises the United States of America, who won the competition as hosts back in 2012, Hong Kong, Namibia and tournament debutants Spain.
Chivandire — who coached the last Zimbabwe Under-20 team to qualify for the World Under-20 Trophy in 2012 — said their target was to win at least two matches.
“We are looking to really perform well. This is our first time competing at this level in four years. We last participated at this level in 2012, where I still believe we did fairly well. Our target this time is to get a minimum of two wins. If we manage to achieve that, it would be satisfactory for a team that is coming back to a high-profile tournament like this,” he said.
The side, which is captained by former Falcon College loose forward Connor Prichardt, will be hoping for a positive start to their campaign when they square off against pre-tournament favourites Samoa on Tuesday.
Zimbabwe have a number of experienced players in their squad.
The include Golden Lions Under-19 prop Stephen Bhasera, Free State Under-19 loose forward Daniel Nyamugama and US-based Lebogang Ngwenya, among others.
They will, however, have to be at their best against a Samoan side which is determined to right the wrongs of last year, after being relegated from the top-tier of age grade rugby competition, the elite World Rugby Under-20 Championship, after losing a play-off match against hosts Italy.
Zimbabwe Under-20 Squad:
Forwards: Justin Mendehlson, Steven Bhasera, Jeff Makoni, Farai Lioga, Rodrick Mubaiwa, Lebogang Ngwenya, Tinotenda Msasanure, Tinashe Muchena, Kudakwashe Ndoro, Tatenda Zhoya, Connor Pritchard, Tapiwa Mangwana, Martin Shioma, Aiden Burnett, Daniel Nyamugama
Backs: Ernest Mudzengerere, Takudzwa Gamanya, Angus Bruce, Tadiwa Gochera, Tawanda Ngosi, Mudiwa Manhombo, Kudzaishe Munangi, Sam Phiri, Brian Matoramusha, Shingirai Katsvere, Tarisai Mapfumo
Coach: Brandon Brider, Assistant: Bob Mahari, Manager: Shaun de Souza, Physiotherapist: Maggie Gibson
Tuesday Fixtures (All matches at Harare Sports Club)
Pool A: Uruguay v Fiji (2pm), Samoa v Zimbabwe (4pm)
Pool B: United States v Namibia (10am), Spain v Hong Kong (12pm)