Squad depth excites Junior Sables coach ahead Barthes Trophy defence

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Junior Sables head coach Shaun De Souza

Zimbabwe Under-20 rugby team coach Shaun De Souza says he is excited by the healthy competition amongst players for places in his squad as his charges brace for their title defence at this year’s Rugby Africa U20 Barthes Trophy in Kenya from April 22-30.

De Souza yesterday named a talent-laden 36-man provisional squad for Africa’s Under-20 premier rugby competition which will see the winner get the ticket to this year’s World Rugby Junior Trophy (WRJT), which will also be held in Nairobi in July this year.

The squad has eight returning players from last year’s successful team namely Bryan Chiang, Tanaka Gondomukandapi, Takunda Mudzingwa, Panashe Zuze Brendan Marume, Tanaka Chinyaga, Alex Nyamunda and Dion Khumalo.

Exciting scrumhalf Zuze will captain the team and will be deputised by the duo of Marume and Gondomukandapi.

The Junior Sables players and technical officials celebrate after winning the Rugby Africa U20 Barthes Trophy at the Nyayo International Stadium in Nairobi last year

Zimbabwe’s preparations have been boosted by a busy domestic season which saw players featuring in the Paramount Under-20 League and the Nedbank Rugby Challenge Cup.

In an interview with ZimSportLive after announcing his squad De Souza said he is pleased with the amount of depth at his disposal.

“This is an exciting team on paper we have left out some very talented youngsters which shows how much talent we have available which is great for Zimbabwe Rugby’s depth pool,” De Souza said.

“We will travel with 28 from this 36-man squad the last two weeks will be very interesting players will have to be on their A game at every session. We will drop three players before announcing the final 28-man traveling and five non traveling reserves.”

De Souza is also looking beyond the upcoming Barthes Trophy after announcing plans to set up an academy player pool composed of gifted players from around the country in preparation for upcoming international assignments.

“We have an academy player pool we have identified that we will be building for next year’s squad players from all over the country,he said.

Zimbabwe won last year’s title with a 19-14 victory over Namibia in an exciting final at Nairobi’s Nyayo National Stadium.

The Junior Sables will be eager to successfully defend their title in the competition, where they will face off against hosts Kenya, Namibia, Madagascar, Uganda, Zambia, Tunisia and the Ivory Coast.

The tournament will be played on a knockout basis with the quarter-finals on April 22 followed by the semi-finals on April 26 and final on April 30.

Zimbabwe Provisional Squad:

Forwards: Happias Zhou, Gerry Zisengwe, Bryan Chiang Tanaka Gondomukandapi (Vice-captain), Huntley Masterson, Tanaka Ndoro, Vincent Chimwendo, Tadiwa Chinwada, Gealan Jaricha, Stanley Muraganwa, Allan Mawunga, Leo Mutendi, Hagler Muchenje, Kelvin Kaseke, Nqobile Manyara, Tadiwanashe Marumisa, Takunda Mudzingwa, , Shingirai Manyara, Tawananyasha Bwanya, Godfrey Zvinavashe,

Backs: Mazuva Gutu, Tadiwa Chinwada, Panashe Zuze (Captain), Brendan Marume (Vice-captain), Tanaka Chinyaga, Edward Sigauke, Kelton Kaseke, Shadreck Mandaza, Alex Nyamunda, Simbarashe Kanyangarara, Brendan Johnson, Kudakwashe Nyamushaya, Benoni Nhekairo, Dion Khumalo, Taonaishe Mapani, Panashe Mugorogodi, Tadiwanashe Unganani

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