Zimbabwe will step up their bid to qualify for their first Rugby World Cup in three decades by competing in South Africa’s domestic rugby competition, the Currie Cup First Division this season in preparation for the final qualifiers for next year’s global showpiece to be played in France in July.
Playing under the name Goshawks, Zimbabwe is one of the four international teams that are expected to be incorporated in the Currie Cup First Division alongside Kenya, Georgia and possibly Namibia.
The Currie Cup birth means the country’s senior rugby team players are set to gain some much-needed game time and exposure ahead of the final phase of the 2023 Rugby World Cup qualifiers to be played in France this July.
Zimbabwe will be making a return to South African domestic competition after they fielded a team in Supersport Rugby Challenge three years ago, playing under the name Zimbabwe Rugby Academy.
Zimbabwe Rugby Union (Zru) president Aaron Jani confirmed that their application to feature in the Currie Cup First Division has been accepted by the South Africa Rugby Union (Saru).
“We did our application last year to participate in the domestic competition in South Africa and it was accepted. So, we will be participating in the second tier of competition in South Africa (Currie Cup First Division) and it’s not only Zimbabwe who will be participating outside the South African teams, we will also be having Kenya, Namibia and Georgia,” Jani said.
“So it is with great pride and joy to announce our participation in this prestigious competition and we will officially set up base in South Africa for the competition. The key to our success will be the participation and support of all Zimbabweans and indirectly,” he said.
After their participation in the Currie Cup First Division, the Sables are expected to proceed to France where they will hold a training camp and play more preparatory matches against local teams before the start of the World Cup qualifiers.
Backed by financial services provider Nedbank, local e-commerce start-up Kuva Local and other sponsors, the Sables are making a serious play to be involved in their first Rugby World Cup of the professional era, having made their two previous appearances in 1987 and 1991.
In addition to entering a high-level competition such as the Currie Cup First Division, Zimbabwe is also set to bolster its technical department while the Union have reached out to several players with roots from the Southern African country plying their trade abroad.
Sables head coach Brendan Dawson will welcome highly rated South Africa-based Zimbabwean coach Pieter Benade as attack and backline coach and Ghafoer Luckan, who is the strength and conditioning coach of South Africa’s rugby sevens side into his technical team.
Luckan will join the team on a consultancy basis while Prince Edward school legend Benade will alternate duties with Danny Hondo due to the latter’s work commitments.