BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
EXPLOSIVE Pumas utility back Tapiwa Mafura is finally set to make his debut for Zimbabwe’s national rugby team after his inclusion in the Sables squad ahead of the upcoming Quadrangular Series to be played in Stellenbosch, South Africa from November 12 to 21.
Zimbabwe last Thursday announced a 27-man squad that is expected to start camp on November 1 in preparation for next month’s Quadrangular Series that will also feature Kenya, Namibia and South American side Brazil.
While the squad is missing several key players due to a combination of injuries, club commitments and Covid-19 travel restrictions, it is the inclusion of the South Africa-bed Mafura which has been a cause for some optimism ahead of the South Africa tour.
Born and bred in Hwange before his family moved to South Africa in 2005, Mafura is a product of the South African rugby system.
He was a star player for the North West University Pukke in the Varsity Cup before earning a move to the Free State Cheetahs where he made a handful of appearances in South Africa’s premier domestic competition, the Currie Cup, and the Europe-based Pro14.
After spending two seasons in Bloemfontein, Mafura retraced his roots back to Mpumalanga to join the Pumas, where he has been a key member of the team.
Mafura’s regular position is fullback, but his blistering turn of pace and eye for gap makes him equally at home on the wing or outside-centre, which makes him a very valuable addition in the Sables squad.
The 25 year-old utility back has been a prime target of the Sables technical department for the last couple of years as the country continues to reinforce its squad ahead of the beginning of World Cup qualifiers in July.
Although Mafura agreed to finally represent his country of birth at international level early this year, he was yet to link up with the Sables due to commitments at Currie Cup side Pumas.
The lightning-quick former Varsity Cup star is now set to make his first appearance for the Sables in Stellenbosch.
Ironically, Mafura could make his first appearance for his country of birth against the Cheetahs, who will play against Zimbabwe in a high profile warm up game against in Bloemfontein on November 6.
After the warm up game, the Sables will then then return to action eight days later for a Quadrangular semi-final clash against Brazil. It will be the first ever meeting between the two sides in international rugby.
The World Rugby sanctioned tournament will give Zimbabwe, Namibia and Kenya an opportunity to prepare for next year’s Rugby Africa Cup tournament slated for France.
The winner automatically qualifies, while the runners-up will join the Repechage tournament, which offers the final attempt to qualify.
Forwards: Tyran Fagan, Dean Makoni, Royal Mwale, George Saungweme, Tapiwa Tsomondo, Cleopas Kundiona, Sean Beevor, Biselele Tshamala, Godfrey Muzanargwo, Aiden Burnett, Tonderai Chawambutsa, Charles Gamhiwa, Lawrence Cleminson, Godwin Mangenje, Bornwell Gwinji
Backs: Hilton Mudariki, Dudlee White-Sharpely, Keith Chiwara, Munashe Chaitezwi, Darrel Makwasha, Takudzwa Kumadiro, Boyd Rouse, Riaan O’Neill, Brendan Mudzekenyedzi, Shingi Katsvere, Martin Mangongo, Tapiwa Mafura.