Goshawks face Welwitschias

Zimbabwe Rugby coach Brendan Dawson

ZIMBABWE’S rugby development side, the Goshawks will kick off their campaign in the newly formed Mzansi Challenge with a home clash against their regional rivals Namibia’s Welwitschias on April 15 following the cancellation of their opening three matches in South Africa.

The Goshawks were scheduled to face South African provincial sides, Leopards (Saturday, March 25), Eastern Province (April 1) and Boland Cavaliers (April 8) in the opening salvoes of the tournament.

However, Zimbabwe coach Brendan Dawson has revealed that  “a lack of finances” has forced his team to pull out of the first three rounds of the competition. Teams in the Mzansi Challenge are required to ‘pay their own way’ and the cash-strapped

Zimbabwe Rugby Union cannot foot the bill for the three-match trip to SA.

“We are unable to raise enough money to play our away games,” Dawson said in an interview with the South African website rugby365.com.

The Zimbabwe coach said they are “grateful” for SARU allowing them to miss the first three games, but continue in the competition.

“If we didn’t have this, Zimbabwe would have no games this year,” he added.

Leopards chief executive officer Eugene Fourie admitted that the cancellation of their Round One home match is a sensitive subject.

“We have so few opportunities to give exposure to our sponsors,” he told @rugby365com.

“We will have to ensure this is addressed and does not happen again.The team from Georgia did the same last year,” he inveighed.

In the wake of the cancellation of their first three matches, the Goshawks’ opening match in the tournament is a home game against Namibia’s Welwitschias on April 15.

The only ‘away’ game they will play is scheduled to be against Kenya’s Simbas in Nairobi on May 20.

However, just days out from the start of the tournament, the venue for that game is still under discussions, with the Simbas set to be based in Cape Town — leaving even that fixture in doubt.

The other ‘away’ game would have been against Spanish outfit Diables, who withdrew from the competition just over a week ago.

A curt statement by SARU said Diables withdrew due to ‘logistical challenges’ — which are also related to the financial challenges brought on by the decision that the invited ‘international’ teams must pay their own way.

Like all SARU’s other domestic competitions, the Mzansi Challenge also does not have a sponsorship.

This follows after SARU controversially axed the Israeli team Tel Aviv Heat from the event.

Another curious development is that California-based San Clemente Rhinos has been parachuted into the competition without any formal announcement.

The United States development outfit, the Rhinos, is listed — along with the Simbas (Kenya), Welwitschias (Namibia) and Goshawks (Zimbabwe) — in the Round One fixtures.

A SARU spokesman told @rugby365com that there is “no change to the status quo” since the withdrawal of the Diables on March 11. Even when asked if additional teams have been added, he insisted the “status quo remains”.

“It will roll out like every other tournament,” the spokesman said about the competition that has been beset by administrative issues since the official announcement back in January. 

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