ZIMBABWE’S Sables have vowed to turn on the magic on Namibia and salvage their pride that has been battered by a winless Rugby Africa Gold Cup campaign.
The Sables host favourites Namibia in their penultimate 2018 Gold Cup assignment at Hartsfield today with the spotlight falling on the way they will apply themselves.
This blockbuster showdown between the old rivals starts at 3.30PM.
But after opening their bid for a place at the 2019 World Cup with a 23-23 home draw against Morocco in Harare on June 16, it has not been a rosy story for the Sables who followed that draw with back to back defeats away to Kenya and Tunisia.
Despite the massive support they have been receiving from the Sables Trust, who have tirelessly worked to ensure that their welfare and preparations took a more professional approach, the senior team have terribly fallen short on delivery and deflated the spirits of a domestic rugby family that had pinned a lot of hopes on them.
As they prepare to face a Namibia side that is still to taste defeat and well on their way to the next year’s World Cup show in Japan on an African ticket, the Sables yesterday said they were eager to salvage their lost pride.
Coach, Peter De Villiers, has also finally seen reason to rejuvenate his faltering side and made a few changes he hopes could help the Sables turn the corner.
Among the changes that De Villiers made was the inclusion of the experienced pair of Tafadzwa Chitokwindo and Shayne Makombe who have been starring for the Cheetahs and led the side that were part of the Sevens World Cup in San Francisco last month.
Chitokwindo, who flew in from his German base on Monday night, said although they were aware that they would be underdogs, they were ready to give the Namibians a good run.
The talented and experienced wing missed the three games against Morocco, Kenya and Tunisia but said he had been following the Sables performances, arguing that they were unlucky not to finish off their opponents in those assignments.
“We are not in a situation that we would have wanted and we have to work our way out. We know what it means if we lose these remaining two games.
“I think the guys were playing well but we needed luck and we also just need to perfect our finishing which was lacking in the last three games.
“I know that pressure lies on me because I am coming into the team taking over from someone who has been doing well but I have to offer something and I just have to use experience to contain the nerves but butterflies are always there,’’ Chitokwindo said.
Chitokwindo feels the lessons they learnt from their flirtation with the World Cup in San Francisco would also come in handy for the Sables.
“In San Francisco we lost against teams that had adequate preparations and adequate facilities but I have seen that training with PDV here has some of that professionalism we saw and if we as players can implement what he has been trying to teach us we can get something from this game.
“The fitness and conditioning that we bring from the World Cup should also come in handy and obviously the tries I scored in San Francisco will be a big boost to my form,’’ Chitokwindo said.
Chitokwindo also revealed that the coaches had placed a lot of emphasis on the Sables defence which has been their Achilles Heel in this campaign.
“We have been working on our defence and I also believe that as players when we say we are going to put our bodies on the line then we have to show that on the field and not just in words. We should be prepared to be bruised out there,’’ Chitokwindo said.
Eighthman Tapfuma Parirenyatwa also weighed in and felt the Sables would be without a lot of pressure when they go into this afternoon’s battle.
Hartsfield has also been traditionally a happy ground for the Sables and Parirenyatwa believes that if the players can get their approach right, they could upstage Namibia.
“The biggest challenge is that we are coming from the back of two defeats so the biggest challenge is psychology.
“But our coach is a very good motivator and he has really worked on psyching the team.
“Namibia are obviously the favourites not just for this game but for the World Cup qualification but we are going to give them a run for their money. The changes that have come in have brought experienced guys like Makombe and Chitokwindo. They were at the World Cup and these are our secret weapons.
“Given the position we are in now, we have to take it on a game by game basis and fight to preserve our status and we are sure going to give it our best.
There is nothing to lose so the pressure is off our shoulders and more on the Namibians than us,’’ Parirenytawa said.
England-based teenage wing, Mathew McNab, who has been relegated to the bench after starting the last three games was also equally upbeat about the Sables chances of upstaging Namibia.
“Our approach to this game has been a lot different and we have been looking at ways to attack Namibia and to defend our lines and a lot of positives have been coming out of our training.
“A lot of people have written us off but I think we are ready to make it count and we want to ensure we won’t take the feet off the pedal, we should have the same momentum from start to finish.
“It’s been an awesome two weeks of preparations and I hope we can win this one and then also go on and win in Uganda but both games will be tough,’’ McNab said.
There was also a boost for the Sables preparations with key flyhalf Lenience Tambwera being available for selection although he is now set to be used as an impact player coming off the bench.
1 Denford Mutamangira; 2 David Mukanda; 3 Farai Mudariki; 4 Brian Nyaude; 5 Fortunate Chipendo; 6 Takudzwa Mandiwanza; 7 Connor Pritchard; 8 Tapfuma Parirenyatwa; 9 Hilton Mudariki; 10 Brendon Mandivenga; 11 Tafadzwa Chitokwindo; 12 Tafadzwa Mhende; 13 Kudzai Mashawi; 14 Shayne Makombe; 15 Shingirai Katsvere; 16 Mathew Mandioma; 17 Irvine Nduwa; 18 Lawrence Cleminson; 19 Antipas Kamkwindo; 20 Lucky Sithole; 21 Ernest Mudzengerere; 22 Lenience Tambwera; 23 Mathew McNab.