Zim Rugby Academy’s training camp begins in Cape Town

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PHILLIMON MHLANGA

Zimbabwe national rugby outfit, the Zimbabwe Rugby Academy, will this Sunday begin its two-week training camp in Cape Town, ahead of the local side’s debut season in the SuperSport Rugby Challenge, a second tier competition of South African rugby.

The now popular rugby festival kicks off on April 27 in South Africa and runs until June 29. The Zimbabwe Rugby Academy’s opening match is against the Sharks on May 4.

Fifteen teams comprising 13 South African provincial unions and clubs and two foreign flavours-the Zimbabwe Rugby Academy and Namibia’s Welwitschias, will take part in the tournaments which is organised by the South African Rugby Union.

Welwitschias has been participating in the tournament for the past two years.  The SuperSport Rugby Challenge was set up two years ago as a long-term successor of the Vodacom Cup competition, and will be played at different venues across South Africa. The competition serves as an important development tournament for South African Rugby.

Last year, the tournament was won by the Pumas, who hail from Mpumalanga Province, South Africa. The inaugural tournament, in 2017, was won by DHL Western Province.

Speaking to Business Times this week, Zimbabwe Rugby Academy head coach, Brendan Dawson, confirmed the training camp will start from Sunday in Cape Town.

“This is a great way we can start develop and look forward to future of Zimbabwe rugby.

I am happy with the players we have. It’s not all that we wanted to have that will be available. We have quite a couple in Johannesburg, and some in the United Kingdom, who will not be able to be with us because of work commitments,” Dawson said. “But, I am very confident that with what we have (the team picked), we will be able to compete.”

Zimbabwe-born former Springboks flying winger Tonderai Chavhanga, who has no coaching experience, will assist Dawson.  At club level, the Masvingo-born Chavhanga played for South African rugby outfits, Stormers and Lions.

Dawson is also expected to rope in former South Africa Rugby Union coach Brendan Venter as his other assistant.

At this year’s SuperSport Rugby Challenge, the 15 teams have been divided into two groups with Zimbabwe in the second pool alongside Sharks XV, Eastern Province, Western Province, Boland Cavaliers, Eastern Province Elephants, Free State Cheetahs and SWD Eagles.

The Welwitschias have been grouped alongside the Blue Bulls XV, Falcons, Golden Lions XV, Griffons, Griquas, Leopards and Pumas.

Each team will play seven rounds of games under the round robin format, after which the top two teams from each group go into the knockout stages.

After the game against the Sharks, the Zimbabwe Academy will take on SWD Eagles on May 12 before a clash with Western Province a week later. On May 18, Zimbabwe Academy will face Western Province before playing the Cheetahs, Boland and Eastern Province on May 25, June 1 and June 8 respectively.

The SuperSport competition comes after this year’s Rugby Africa Gold Cup tournament was cancelled due to the withdrawal of sponsors Kwese.

The cancellation of the Gold Cup would have meant that the majority of local players would not have international rugby.

However, they would now participate in the SuperSport Challenge.

The Zimbabwe Rugby Union’s fundraising arm, the Sables Trust chaired by Gerald Mlotshwa, will be responsible for the Zimbabwe Academy’s welfare and other logistical operations during the SuperSport Challenge. Several sponsors partnered the Sables Trust, including Zerttew Resources, Titan Law firm, Portnex.

Mining investment company, Zerttew Resources, is the main sponsor and will cover about 80 percent of the team’s expenses, Titan Law and Portnex International will be the side’s sponsors. International sports brand BLK will be the Zimbabwe Academy’s official kit sponsor.

Zimbabwe Academy provisional squad:

Denford Mutamangira, Brandon Sweet, Wade Petzer, Cleopas Kundiona, Lawrence Cleminson, Keith Murray, Neil Mawere, Mathew Mandioma, Cameron Harrison, Kudakwashe Nyakufaringwa, Godwin Mangenje, Sanele Sibanda, Jan Ferreira, George Sawezy, Jordon Coombes, Biselele Tshamala, Michael Botha, Brian Nyaude, Aiden Burnett, Godfrey
Muzanagwo,Ernest Mudzengere, Kuzi Kazembe, Brendon Mandivenga, Tabonga Ngonyamo, Jeremiah Jaravaza, Mathew McNab, Kuda Chiwanza, Chibuwe Ngoni, Shayne Makombe, Takudzwa Chieza, Macmillan Mudara, Riaan O’Niel, Tafadzwa Chitokwindo, Takudzwa Kumadiro, Shingirai  Katsvere, David  Makanda, Royal Mwale, Josh Cullen, Dustin Andrews, Njabulo Ndlovu, Hilton Mudariki, Boyd Rouse and Daniel Capsopoulos.