Defending champs Zimbabwe brimming with confidence ahead of Barthes Trophy

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Junior Sables captain Panashe Zuze (with ball) poses for a group picture with the captains of other nations ahead of the start of the Barthes Trophy in Nairobi on Saturday

Nairobi – Despite expecting stiff competition at this year’s Barthes Trophy Under-20 tournament, African champions Zimbabwe are confident of defending their title.

This year’s edition will be held at Nyayo Stadium from April 22 to 30.

The Junior Sables, as they are fondly referred to, arrived in the country on Thursday evening, and coach Shaun De Souza was quick to warn his charges to expect a tough outing this time around.

“Everyone wants to make the World Rugby Under-20 Junior Trophy, so Barthes Trophy is going to be difficult. In fact, it will be more difficult than last year. However, we are ready to bring it home,” said De Souza.

Junior Sables captain Panashe Zuze added that the tournament provides a great opportunity for youngsters to showcase their talents.

Asked whether Zimbabwe have what it takes to retain the trophy, Zuze said, “Of course, we do. People doubted us last year, but we proved them wrong. This year, we are confident but also humble. We will work hard and show people what we are capable of.”

Defending champions Zimbabwe arrived at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport, Nairobi on April 20,2023 ahead of Barthes Trophy Under-20 tournament set for April 22 to 30.

The Zimbabweans defeated two-time champions Namibia 19-14 in last year’s final at Nyayo Stadium.

Zimbabwean news outlets reported on Wednesday that President Emmerson Mnangagwa hosted the Junior Sables at State House in Harare ahead of their departure to Kenya.

Ivory Coast team was first to arrive in the country on Thursday 1.20am followed by Tunisia. The Ivorians will face Zimbabwe in the first quarter-final on Saturday 9.00am.

“It’s going to be a hard game but we are excited. It should be a good game,” Zuze said.

Uganda, Zambia, Madagascar and Namibia were due in the country on Thursday night.

Barthes Trophy winners will join 2019 and 2021 African champions Kenya as Africa’s representatives at the 2023 World Rugby Under-20 Junior Trophy slated for July 15 to 30, this year in Nairobi.

World Rugby U-20 Trophy is the second level of the World Rugby tournament structure for Under-20 national sides in which champions qualify for the top-tier competition, World Rugby U-20 Championship 2024.

Kenya hosted the second-tier global showpiece in 2009, finishing fourth behind Romania, USA and Chile respectively.

This year’s World Rugby U-20 Trophy will involve Kenya (hosts), Barthes Trophy champions (Africa), Scotland (relegated from the World Rugby U-20 Championship in 2019), Hong Kong (Asia), Samoa (Oceania), Spain (Europe), Uruguay (South America) and North America winners between USA and Canada.

Draws for the second-tier world contest are already out with Kenya, Spain, Samoa and Hong Kong in Pool “B” as Scotland, Uruguay, Canada/USA and Barthes Trophy winners in Pool “A”.

Barthes Trophy quarter-finals pairings (Zimbabwean time)

Zimbabwe v Ivory Coast (8.00am)

Namibia v Zambia (10.30am)

Madagascar v Tunisia (1.00pm)

Kenya v Uganda (3.30pm)

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