Junior Sables brace for bruising battle

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Junior Sables players in a huddle before their semi-final match against Ivory Coast in Nairobi on Saturday. CREDIT: Kenya Rugby

Zimbabwe Under-20 rugby team Shaun De Souza is bracing for a physical encounter when his side faces Tunisia in the Rugby Under-20 Africa Cup semi-finals in wet weather conditions anticipated at the Nyayo Stadium in Nairobi, Kenya today.

The match kicks off at 1pm Zimbabwean time.

The Junior Sables, who are the defending champions in the continental event, popularly known as the Barthes Trophy, began their title defence with a dominant 55-0 win against Côte d’Ivoire in their first match on Saturday.

The Zimbabwean side who have been heavily tipped successfully retain their title, showcased some exciting attacking rugby which sets up a potentially explosive semi-final clash against Tunisia.

The North African side also made a big statement in their quarterfinal after cruising to a comfortable 52-16 win over Madagascar at the same venue.

Tunisia fielded huge squad in terms of size in both their forwards and backs against Madagascar and they are expected to take the same approach against Zimbabwe.

The Junior Sables, who needed a last minute try to edge the same team 19-18 at the same venue last year, expect the Tunisians to up the ante with their physicality and have made necessary changes to their forward pack.

Zimbabwe, who also boast of some mobile forwards and a lighting fast backline will also look to exploit the Tunisians’ lack of pace amongst the forwards.

“We have worked on a size component of our pack (of forwards),” Junior Sables head coach We Souza said in an interview with NewsDaySport yesterday.

“We have looked at trying to play a Test match game based on the weather conditions and hopefully when we have settled down and the nerves we will then speed up the game and go with a lighter pack and use our mobility strength and try to capitalise on the Tunisians pack in the latter stages of the game. That’s the plan and let’s see if the weather holds up but if it doesn’t we will adjust accordingly,” he added.

Zimbabwe Under-20 captain Panashe Zuze

Zimbabwe has made three changes to their pack with towering lock Huntley Masterson named at lock ahead of Allan Mawunga, whose considerable frame will now be deployed at the base of he scrum at number eight.

The other change sees the robust Hagler Muchenji slotting into the loose trio at openside flank ahead of Tanaka Ndoro, who will add some firepower from the bench.

Apart from an additional tower in the line-out and more bulk in the scrum, the changes are expected to give the Junior Sables greater ball-carrying capability and they should pack greater punch in the collisions.

A victory against the Tunisians will see Zimbabwe qualifying for Saturday’s final where they take on the winner of the other semi-final clash between the hosts Kenya and last year’s losing finalists Namibia.

The winners of Saturday’s final will clinch Africa’s single qualification position for July’s World Rugby Under-20 Trophy, which will also be hosted by Kenya.

Zimbabwe U20 Team vs Tunisia

1. Happias Zhou, 2. Bryan Chiang, 3. Tadiwa Chinwada, 4. Huntley Masterson, 5. Tanaka GondoMukandapi (VC), 6. Hagler Muchenji 7. Muzuva Gutu, 8. Allan Mawunga, 9. Panashe Zuze (C), 10. Brendan Marume (VC), 11. Edward Sigauke, 12. Alex Nyamunda, 13. Dion Khumalo, 14. Panashe Mugorogodi, 15. Simbarashe Kanyangarara

Replacements: 16. Stanley Muranganwa, 17. Gerry Zisengwe, 18. Gealan Jaricha, 19. Leo Mutendi, 20. Shadrick Mandaza, 21. Tanaka Chinyanga, 22. Brendan Jameson, 23. Tawananyasha Bwanya

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