Zimbabwe is set to step up their preparations for their Rugby Africa Under-20 Barthes Trophy defence in Kenya in April after announcing a talent-loaded provisional squad of 73 players which has been dubbed the High Performance Squad.
The Junior Sables are aiming for another successful season after being crowned African champions in the East African country last April after beating bitter rivals Namibia in the final.
Zimbabwe’s Under-20 side also went on to finish as runner’s ups in the World Rugby Canada Conference which featured the hosts, eventual winners Chile and Uruaguay late last year to cap off a very successful year.
Kenya will once again host the continent’s Under-20 championship, which will feature eight teams namely, the hosts, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Zambia, Madagascar, Uganda, Tunisia and Ivory Coast.
Zimbabwe are aiming to successfully defend their title and earn a place in the World Rugby Under-20 Junior Trophy which will also be held in the East African nation in July.
After guiding the team to their first continental title in a decade, former Zimbabwe rugby star Shaun De Souza, who is continuing as head coach of the team said he has cast his selection net wide to ensure he has the best available squad at his disposal.
The Prince Edward School head coach also stressed the importance of beginning preparations early.
“We have announced the 2023 Under-20 High performance squad which we will monitor closely. We will drop those not holding their weight and add new players if need be.” De Souza said in an interview with ZimSportLive on Monday.
“We have also considered our continuity the pathway and cycle of our program with 65 days to go before we compete to retain our 2022 title of the Barthes Trophy and qualify for that one open spot at this year’s World Rugby Under-20 Junior World Trophy were Kenya have an automatic qualification as hosts.”
As part of the preparations for the Kenya tour, most players have been getting some game time in the Paramount Garments Under-20 League which kicked off early this month.
The Junior Sables Under-20 High performance team will also play in the second edition of the Nedbank Challenge Cup.
The local tournament will be played in Harare from March 11 to 18 with eight teams playing in a strength on strength rugby extravaganza that will be used for player selection into the Goshawks Currie Cup team and Zimbabwe Under-20 team.
This event also doubles up as pre season tournament for local clubs ahead of tge domestic season.
The Junior Sables are also hoping to play two friendly matches against Botswana in Bulawayo with their final squad.
De Souza is confident that with the level of preparation which they have lined up and the squad at his disposal, his charges will be able to successfully defend their African crown and qualify for the World Rugby Under-20 Junior World Trophy which is making a return after a four-year absence.
“We believe this is the squad to do that. I’m excited for this opportunity which worked wonders for our preparations last year we got to see clearly the players that were not ready for the international stage.’
De Souza will be without a few of his star players from last year, who are now above the stipulated age group.
Some of the key players not returning this year include last year’s skipper Takudzwa Musingwini, Tavonga Ablant who was named the Player of the Tournament last year.
There are also several players who are returning from last year’s squad such as exciting scrumhalf Panashe Zuze, prop Brian Chiang, loose-forwards Tanaka Ndoro and Tanaka Gondo-Mukandapi as well as utility backs Tawanda Matipano and Brendon Marume.
Forwards: Happias Zhou, Tadiwanashe Marumisa, Farai Madzima*, Rogers Tayengwa, Takunda Mudzingwa, Munashe Ndhlela, Giordano Sarpo, Tamuka Kambani*, Tawananyasha Bwanya, Shingi Manyarara*, Tashinga Makiwa, Kelvin Kaseke, Godfrey Zvinavashe, Tafadzwa Gwaza, Kudakwashe Gotora, Tadiwa Chimwada, Gerry Zisengwe, Martin Hakunavanhu*, Bryan Chiang*, Takudzwa Zvomuya, Darryl Mwenso, Tanaka Gondo-Mukandapi, Allan Mawunga, Vincent Chimwendo, Muzuva Gutu, Prince Chinyadura, Tendai Maruma*, Tinotenda Matimbira, Joseph Benning, Ryan Mckenzie*, Nqobile Manyara, Gealan Jaricha, Gamaliel Munembe, Stanley Muranganwa*, Tadiwa Mazanhi, Jackson Munyaka, Huntley Materson, Leo Mutendi, Hagler Muchenji, Tanaka Ndoro*, Tadiwa Gwaraba, Mwaita Makanza*, Takudzwa Kamucheta, Panashe Taderera.
Backs: Panashe Zuze, Brendon Marume*, Alex Nyamuda, Kudakwashe Nyamushaya, Tadiwanashe Unganai, Edward Sigauke, Panashe Mugorogodi, Simbarashe Kanyangarara, Tadiwa Ngirazi, Cole Musanigwa, Shadrick Mandaza, Benoni Nhekairo, Dion Khumalo, Tanaka Chinyanga, Dereck Karuma, Munotida Marimirofa*, Oliver Masara, Tawanda Matipano*, Nigel Siabwanda, Damien Moyo, Welton Charumbira*, Kholwani Moyo, Jerome Sagomba*, Kelton Kaseke, Vuyani Ncube, Brendan Jameson, Taona Mapani, Mbekezeli Siziba, Callon Matsikira.
*Denotes players based outside Zimbabwe.