Dawson upbeat despite Goshawks defeat in Mzansi Challenge opener

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Former Zimbabwe head coach Brendan Dawson (right) and then backline coach Pieter Benade, who is now his predecessor

Zimbabwe Goshawks head coach Brendan Dawson insists his young but talented side can only improve going forward after putting on an encouraging display during their opening match in the Mzansi Challenge at Harare Sports Club on Saturday.

Dawson’s side which was dominated by uncapped players succumbed to a 26-31 defeat against Namibian outfit Windhoek Draft Welwitschias in an entertaining clash which could have gone either way.

It was a promising start for the Zimbabwe Goshawks side, who were playing in their first competitive match this season while their opponents had already played four tough matches against strong South African opposition.

“I am over the moon … it’s amazing what this young team has done today and I am so very proud of them,” said Dawson.

“Irrespective of the 31-26 scoreline, it is a great victory for us as a group.

“The entire team put in a great shift, and I can’t really fault anyone for the loss or the errors,” he said.

There was very little to separate the two teams, who are using this tournament as a developmental opportunity to blood new players.

While Zimbabwe is preparing for the next World Cup qualification cycle for the 2023 global tournament, Namibia are looking to identify some players to include in their squad which will feature in this year’s Rugby World Cup.

Zimbabwe got onto the scoreboard through three penalties and a conversion from skipper Hilton Mudariki, while McLean Muhambi, Patrick Macklin and Gideon Maseka scored the tries.

Unlike in previous encounters between the two sides, the hosts kept the game very close and neutralised the Namibians’ physicality with their speedy loose forwards and backline which kept the visitors on the back foot for long periods in the match.

While Zimbabwe struggled at the scrums, they showed remarkable improvement at line-out set pieces with the hookers regularly finding their jumpers.

The biggest let-down though was their ball-handling skills which cost them a couple of good scoring opportunities in the match.

Despite their victory, Welwitschias head coach Chrysander Botha lamented his team’s lack of discipline at the breakdown after conceding 26 penalties during the match.

“We expected nothing less than a high intensity and close game from Zimbabwe; they are a fighting nation and we are just glad we could come here and get this experience,” said Botha.

“Today we didn’t kick very well; I think it was a bit windy and that really affected us.

“Our discipline also let us down today, and I think the penalty count was about 26 or 27, which is terrible and unacceptable.

“We need to work on it in the coming days,” he said.

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