Wednesday, 20 July 2016

The Uphill Zimbabwe Task

On Saturday 23rd July, 2016 at the Bulawayo Police Grounds in Harare, the Zimbabwe Sables will play host to a hopeful Uganda Rugby Cranes in each, their second Tier 1A game at 1630HRS East African Time.

Uganda and Zimbabwe have each played one game, and both teams have lost while their other competitors Kenya and Namibia have won one, lost one and won two respectively. Uganda lost to Namibia in Kampala with a little pride, losing 40-31 nonetheless. Meanwhile Kenya made a meal of Zimbabwe, with the Sables losing 15-61 in their own backyard. They looked in position to contend after the first half ended 24-15 to the visitors but 37 unanswered second half points more than sealed the win for Kenya.

Owing to that loss commandeered by the Simbas, the Cranes have what many may call a chance to win it away but it won’t be as easy because they have had two weeks to regroup, against the visitors’ three. Coach Duncan remains upbeat and hopeful and from his interview to Kawowo Sports, he says:
      We have a chance in the remaining games and that’s why we are working hard as a team. The boys believe and that’s what you need going into such huge fixtures.”

                                  (Captain Brian Odong and his deputy, Michael Wokorach.)

After watching what Kenya did to Zimbabwe, sidelined with injury-halfback, Kevin Makmot told  Kawowo, “The Kenya result shows you that it may not matter where you’re playing. Whether home or away, anything can happen. We have to do our best in Zimbabwe.

The last team to go to Zimbabwe so hopeful for a win and stay in African rugby’s premier clique was Tunisia. The visitors were subjected to a 16-05 loss in Harare on Saturday, 4th July, 2015 and they were since relegated to Tier 1B. Will this be the case with the Cranes or will they pull off the upset?

Similar to the predicament with Makmot, Zimbabwe have injury problems of their own. They had to lose their 32 year old Scottish Premiership winner with AYR, and former Glasgow Warrior and skipper, Denford Mutamangira early on in the game against Kenya: the 14th minute to be exact.  They lost winger Tafadzwa Chitokwindo during a 7s tourney in South Africa, and Tichafara Makwanya to a nagging ACL tendon issue. The list gets longer with halfback Hilton Mudariki and his sibling Farai Mudariki, Cleopas  Makotose, Gerald Sibanda, Andrew Rose, Njabulo Ndlovu among others who are doubtful for the Cranes clash. To add insult to injury, some white players revealed of their unavailability to play for Sables after Coach Brandon Dawson’s contract was not renewed.

Former loose forward, and now coach of the Sables, Cyprian “Supa” Mandenge who was appointed last year told H-Metro ahead of Tier 1A season’ “It’s a tight one. It’s a tight call.” He had a reason to smile when reinforcements with Lawrence Clemy, Royal Mwale, Gavin Nyawata and Lenience Tambwera came in from South Africa.

Uganda have injury concerns of their own with forwards Saul Kivumbi and Ronald Musajja, joining backs Gerald “Kasooto” Sewankambo and Kevin Makmot in the infirmary. These four have been replaced with Arthur Mpande (Shell Rimula Rhinos), Collins Kimbowa (Betway Kobs), Robert Masendi (Toyota Buffaloes) and Ivan Magomu (Buzz Pirates). Uganda will be glad to have Ivan back into the fold increasing the pace and creativity of the backline.

                                 (Phillip Wokorach in action earlier this year.) Photo Credit: Kawowo

Knowing what lies ahead, Coach Duncan was hesitant to say, “It’s a tough task because we failed to win at home last time and now we have to win in front of big away crowds.”

Looking forward to possibly making the starting XV, local hero and Betway Kobs utility back, Joseph Aredo, was in a jolly and confident mood and had this to say: “We have prepared and everyone is confident we can get a result. Kenya have already won away from home andwe know it is possible for us to do that too.”

The squad sets off for Southern Africa on Thursday and below are the matchday 23 selected players:

BACKS:  Joseph Aredo, Phillip Wokorach, Sebuliba Lawrence, Michael Wokorach(VC), Ivan Magomu, Oscar Kalyango, James Odong, Chris Lubanga, Robert Masendi, Davis Kiwalabye.

FORWARDS: Brian Odong(C), Asuman Mugerwa, Cyrus Wathum, Eric Kasiita, Elijah Segawa, Kimbowa Collins, Mpande Arthur, Byron Oketayot, Charles Uhuru, Brian Asaba, Pius Ogena, Marvin Odong, John Wandicho.

                                                Captain Brian Odong goes full bulldozer