Mehluli Sibanda, Senior Sports Reporter
FULLBACK Brendon Mandivenga will lead the Zimbabwe Sables in the Rugby Africa Pool D final fixture against Burkina Faso at Old Georgians Sports Club in Harare this afternoon.
Mandivenga, who did not feature against the Stallions in Sunday’s 101-3 rout, will lead his country after skipper Hilton Mudariki was ruled out by a hip and groin problem.
Nine changes have been made to the team that thrashed Burkina Faso on Sunday.
Other players out of today’s game through injury are hooker Matthew Mandioma (hip), flank Blithe Mavesere (ligament sprain) and fullback Martin Mangongo.
Sables’ coach Brendan Dawson said he saw it fit to rest injured players and give others a chance.
“I just felt that it’s right to give other guys an opportunity. The injuries are not serious, but we don’t need to risk. I prefer them to make full recoveries and ensure they are 100 percent fit for the future,” said Dawson.
Changes have also been made to the front row where Tyran Fagan starts at loose-head prop, Royal Mwale at hooker and Cleopas Kundiona scrumming down at tight-head prop.
Locks Sean Beevor and David Makamba retain their positions in the second row, while there is a new loose trio made up of Godfrey Muzanargwo, Tonderai Chiwambutsa and Aiden Burnett.
With Mudariki out, Dudlee White-Sharpley starts at scrumhalf to form a halfback combination with flyhalf Rian O’Neill.
Matthew McNab and Brandon Mudzekenyedzi will operate on the wings, Takudzwa Chieza slotting in at inside centre, with Shayne Makombe on his outside and Mandivenga as the last man in defence at fullback.
Biselele Tshamala, Deanne Makoni, Marcus Nel, Sebastian Roche, Keith Chiwara and Shingirai Katsvere, who all started on Sunday, will start on the bench, which is completed by the front row duo of Doug Juszczyk and Barnwell Gwinji.
Zimbabwe have a points difference of 98 and are guaranteed to finish top of Pool D.
They will meet Ivory Coast in the quarter-finals, while Burkina Faso face Namibia next year.
Winners of the 2022 Rugby Africa Cup will automatically qualify for the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France.
Meanwhile Rugby Africa has commended the Sables for their sportsmanship gesture after they trained together with Burkina Faso on Tuesday.
“Zimbabwe shared a gesture of solidarity and highlighted their commitment to growing African rugby by having a training session with Burkina Faso after beating them 101-3,” tweeted Rugby Africa.
In a video shared by the continental rugby governing body, Sables’ coach Dawson can be seen sharing his expertise with the Stallions on the training field.
Tyran Fagan, Royal Mwale, Cleopas Kundiona, Sean Beevor, David Makamba, Godfrey Muzanargwo, Tonderai Chiwambutsa, Aiden Burnett, Dudlee White-Sharpley, Riaan O’Neill, Matthew McNab, Takudzwa Chieza, Shayne Makombe, Brandon Mudzekenyedzi, Brendon Mandivenga (captain)
Replacements: Deanne Makoni, Doug Juszczyk, Bornwell Gwinji, Biselele Tshamala, Keith Chiwara, Shingirai Katsvere, Marcus Nel, Sebastian Roche
Head coach: Brendan Dawson
Assistant coach: Daniel Hondo
Assistant coach: Liam Middleton
Assistant coach: Graham Knoop
Technical analyst: Takunda Chifokoyo
Team manager: Jason Maritz
Physiotherapist: Alice Randall