ZIMBABWE Under-20 rugby coach Shaun De Souza has declared that “losing is not an option” as the Young Sables launch a defence of their Africa Cup title in Kenya next week.
De Souza’s charges last year in Kenya ended a decade-long drought for Zimbabwe by clinching the tournament, known as the Barthes Trophy after the late World Rugby’s Rugby services manager for Africa, Jean-Luc Barthes, who passed away in 2016.
The young Zimbabwean side is back in the East African country determined to win a second successive title. This time around, it carries an extra incentive – qualification to the World Rugby Under-20 Trophy to be hosted in Kenya again.
“It’s very important to defend our title. We need to qualify for the Junior World Trophy, so losing is not an option,” De Souza told SportsCast this week.
“We have worked towards this since December and have put in the effort with the high-performance squad.”
Sables legend De Souza is fully aware of the threat posed by closest rivals Kenya and Namibia, the latter beaten in the final by Zimbabwe last year. But De Souza does have plans to counter the two.
”Yes, Kenya and Namibia are the top contenders for the title,” he said. “But those two teams will meet in the semi-finals so one of them will definitely reach the final and, if all goes to plan, we will play the final with one of them.”
De Souza will bank on quite a contingent of returning players from last year, although triumphant 2022 captain Takudzwa Musingwini and others are past the stipulated age and will not be travelling to Nairobi this time around.
“Having the players from last year is definitely good and was always our plan and part of the process of bleeding younger players,” commented De Souza.
“So we have continuity as we build players for the Junior World Trophy.”
The travelling 27-player squad was meanwhile announced on Monday.
YOUNG SABLES SQUAD
Forwards: Happies Zhou, Gerry Zisengwe, Stan Muranganwa, Vince Chimwendo, Muzuva Gutu, Halger Muchenje, Tapiwa Chinwada, Gealan Jaricha, Tanaka Gondo-Mukandapi (vice-captain), Huntely Masterson, Tawananyasha Bwanya, Nqobile Manyara, Bryan Cheng, Allan Mawunga, Tanaka Ndoro.
Backs: Panashe Zuze (captain), Brendon Marume (vice-captain), Dion Khumalo, Brendan Jameson, Shadrick Mandaza, Benoni Nhekairo, Tanaka Chinyanga, Panashe Mugorogodi, Simbarashe Kanyangarara, Alex Nyamunda, Edward Sigauke, Taonaishe Mapani. – SportsCast.