By Paul Munyuki
Young Sables coach Brighton Chivandire is cautious ahead of their defence of the Confédération Africane de Rugby (CAR) Under 19 Championship, which gets under way at Prince Edward School in Harare on Saturday.
Hosts Zimbabwe will battle it out with Tunisia, Kenya and former champions Namibia in Pool A for the right to represent Africa at the IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy in Chile next year and Chivandire believes any of these teams are capable of claiming the title.
“There is no side that we should take lightly because all of the three teams we are going to play are capable of winning and have one thing in common and that is dethroning Zimbabwe from the top so it is us against the rest,” Chivandire said.
However, despite being cautious, Zimbabwe have a strong squad that includes several players from the squad that finished seventh of eight teams at the IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy 2012 in Salt Lake City, USA, in June.
Captain and second row Joshua Smallbones, loose forwards Tapiwa Tsomondo, Tawanda Chowe and Matthew Lawson, props Kudakwashe Makuvire and Thabani Ndaba and scrum half Robert Sargeant were all part of the Zimbabwe Under 20 squad that won one and lost three matches in the USA.
Zimbabwe are also banking on former Under 18 and Prince Edward fly half Luke Masasire, who is expected to join the camp on Friday after arriving from Australia where he was part of the Zimbabwe ICC U19 Cricket World Cup.
Hungry for more success
Having won the past three editions of the CAR Under 19 Championship, including last year at home, Chivandire knows there is a lot of pressure for Zimbabwe to maintain the momentum but “that does not take away the fact that we want to win the tournament because in the past we have managed to produce quality players and it is that (international) exposure we need.
“Being the defending champions of this tournament gives us the mental and psychological advantage and self belief will not be a problem as they believe in each other,” added the former Sables coach.
Zimbabwe will begin their title defence against Kenya, one of three African sides to have played in the IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy after hosting the 2009 tournament, with Tunisia facing Namibia.
Four other teams will contest Pool B with the winner to be promoted to the top level next year. Zambia, Madagascar and Morocco will be joined by a Zimbabwe Under 19 select side after Uganda were forced to pull out of the week-long event.
Three nations are already confirmed for JWRT 2013 with hosts Chile joined by Italy, who were relegated from IRB Junior World Championship 2012, and Asian qualifiers Japan. The remaining places will be filled via regional qualifiers.
CAR Under 19 Championship Fixtures
Saturday 25 August
Zimbabwe Select v Zambia
Zimbabwe v Kenya
Madagascar v Morocco
Namibia v Tunisia
Tuesday 28 August
Namibia v Kenya
Madagascar v Zambia
Zimbabwe v Tunisia
Zimbabwe Select v Morocco
Saturday 1 September
Morocco v Zambia
Tunisia v Kenya
Zimbabwe Select v Madagascar
Zimbabwe v Namibia
Paul Munyuki is a rugby writer with The Herald of Zimbabwe.