Dawson keeps faith in his backline for Namibia encounter

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Fullback Tapiwa Mafura fends off an Ivory Coast player during the Sables Rugby Africa Cup quarterfinal last Friday

Zimbabwe coach Brendan Dawson has kept faith with the same exciting backline which unlocked Ivory Coast with aplomb last week for Wednesday night’s do-or-die 2022 Rugby Africa Cup semi-final at the Stade Maurice David in France’s southern city of Aix-en-Provence.

The Sables face continental rivals Namibia in a crunch game they need to win at all costs to move a step closer to qualifying for the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

Zimbabwe’s flagship rugby side kept their hopes of qualifying for their third World Cup and first since 1991 with a 38-11 victory over Ivory Coast in Marseille last Friday.

While the set-piece dominance was seen as instrumental in the victory, it was the backline’s scintillating display which laid the foundation for the win.

The renowned flair and speed of Zimbabwe’s backs will yet again be their strongest attacking weapon on Wednesday night spearheaded by enterprising full-back Tapiwa Mafura, centres Takudzwa Chieza and Matthew McNab and wingers Shingirai Katsvere and Shayne Makombe

Zimbabwe has made four changes to the side that started on Friday, all in the forwards pack.

The Sables will start with a new front row trio of loosehead prop Tryan Fagan, hooker Matthew Mandioma and tight-head Cleopas Kundiona, who all came off the bench against Ivory Coast.

Tapiwa Tsomondo starts at open-side flank in place of Kelvin Kanenungo, who drops down to the bench.

Centre Riaan O’Neill has been ruled out due to injury while Aiden Burnett is unavailable due to a one-match suspension due to a red card he picked up in the quarter-final tie against Ivory Coast on Friday.

The Sables, who featured at the 1987 and 1991 World Cup need a win to keep alive their hopes of ending a 31-year wait for their fourth appearance at the global rugby showpiece.

Namibia, who have not lost a Test match against Zimbabwe since 2001 are aiming to secure the continental qualifying spot for its seventh straight Rugby World Cup.

The 2023 edition is set to take place in France.

Sables starting line-up (1-15): Tyran Fagan, Matthew Mandioma, Cleopas Kundiona, Sean Beevor, Godfrey Muzanagrwo, Jason Fraser, Tapiwa Tsomondo, Nyasha Tarusenga, Hilton Mudariki (captain), Marcus Nel, Shingirai Katsvere, Takudzwa Chieza, Matthew McNab, Shayne Makombe, Tapiwa Mafura

Replacements (16-23): Liam Larkan, Victor Mupunga, Bornwell Gwinji, Godwin Mangenje, Kelvin Kanenungo, Kyle Golloway, Takudzwa Musingwingi, Ngoni Chibuwe

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