BY DANIEL NHAKANISO ZIMBABWE’S Under-20 rugby team will be seeking to conclude what has been a remarkable season on a high when they feature in the U20s Canada Conference 2022 which gets underway at the University of Guelph in Ontario, Canada on Saturday.
The Junior Sables were crowned African champions in April following an upset 19-14 win over Namibia in the final of the Rugby Africa Under-20 Barthes Trophy in Kenya. The memorable victory in Kenya earned them an invitation to compete against hosts Canada, Uruguay and Chile in the U20s Canada Conference 2022, which is being organised by Rugby Canada in partnership with World Rugby.
The participating teams will be using the 10-day competition to prepare for next year’s World Rugby U20 Trophy.
Taking place in a round-robin format, the event’s first stage of matches will take place on Saturday followed by subsequent rounds on August 18 and August 23.
The Zimbabwe side, which left the country on Friday night in high spirits after a sponsorship boost from Nedbank Zimbabwe, will face hosts Canada in the first game.
Junior Sables head coach Shaun de Souza said his side will draw inspiration from their successful campaign in Kenya where they went ranked sixth before upstaging their higher ranked opponents on their way to the continental title.
“We are basically ranked fourth, looking at the teams that we will play against so we are the underdogs. We will play the number one ranked team Canada in our first fixture so we will take the same pages that we used in Kenya and try and replicate that and see how best we can perform starting with the first match against Canada,” De Souza said.
“Competing in the Canada Series will give us an opportunity to gauge ourselves against some of the top teams in the world and set a platform for the World Rugby Under-20 Trophy next year,” he added.
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The Junior Sables will be boosted by the availability of four players who were part of the senior squad during their maiden appearance in the Currie Cup First Division in South Africa and the subsequent Rugby Africa Cup in France.
The quartet of skipper Takudzwa Musingwini, Brendan Marume, Tavonga Ablant and Tawanda Matipano starred for the Zimbabwe Goshawks in the Currie Cup campaign. They were also set to earn their Sables debuts in France but in the end only Musingwini earned his senior cap while the others missed out due to injuries.
De Souza said the experience that they gained with the Sables has been valuable for his young side.
“The guys who were with the senior squad have brought a different side of excitement into the camp. The experience that they’ve gained is definitely spilling down to the team. That was the whole plan I had when Dawsie (Sables head coach Brendan Dawson) was asking if we he could take some of our players. It’s a good pathway and has definitely built a bigger pool of players that we want to play for the Sables,” the former Zimbabwe international said.