BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
SABLES head coach Brendan Dawson has gone for experience after naming his two highly-rated Test debutants in his starting line-up for the opening match of the Stellenbosch Challenge against higher-ranked Brazil at the Stellenbosch Academy of Sport in South Africa today.
The match kicks off at 10am.
France-based back row forward Tapiwa Tsomondo, who is no stranger to Zimbabwean rugby with several appearances for the country in rugby sevens, will finally make his debut in the fifteens after an impressive season campaign in Europe.
The powerfully built former Western Province and Blue Bulls player will start at number eight in a well-balanced backrow trio with the veteran blindside flank Biselele Tshamala and youthful openside Godfrey Muzanargwo.
Dawson has also handed a much-awaited Test debut to the explosive Pumas utility back Tapiwa Mafura, who will start at fullback, adding more pace and flair to the Sables backline.
The 25-year-old lightning quick star is joined in the back three by left wing Takudzwa Kumadiro and the versatile New Zealand-based star Brendon Mudzekenyedzi, who has been moved from outside centre to wing.
Seasoned France-based Riaan O’Neill, who has in recent matches auditioned for the flyhalf role, fills the void left by Mudzekenyedzi in midfield, where he will partner the mercurial Takudzwa Chieza.
South Africa-based Dudley White-Sharpley has been entrusted with the number 10 jersey, while skipper Hilton Mudariki will provide leadership in the backline from scrumhalf.
The main battle is, however, likely to be won and lost in the tight five, where Dawson has opted for the experienced trio of loose head Tyan Fagan, hooker Royal Mwale and tighthead Cleopas Kundiona Jr in the front row and the new-look lock pairing of Sean Beevor and George Saungweme.
Zimbabwe will be seeking a positive start despite the odds being stacked against them as their opponents Brazil are ranked 27th on the World Rugby rankings, seven places higher than the Sables.
The winner of today’s match at the Stellenbosch Academy of Sport will play in the final against the winner of the other tie between Namibia and Kenya.
Zimbabwe warmed up against South African side Cheetahs last weekend.
Sables Starting XV: Tyran Fagan, Royal Mwale, Cleopas Kundiona, Sean Beevor, George Saungweme, Godfrey Muzanargwo, Biselele Tshamala, Tapiwa Tsomondo, Hilton Mudariki, Dudlee White-Sharpley, Takudzwa Kumadiro, Takudzwa Chieza, Riaan O’Neill, Brandon Mudzekenyedzi, Tapiwa Mafura
Replacements: Deanne Makoni, Victor Mupunga, Bornwell Gwinji, Godwin Mangenje, Tonderai Chiwambutsa, Keith Chiwara, Shingirai Katsvere, Aiden Burnett