SABLES coach Brendan Dawson (pictured) has named six Test debutants in his starting line-up for the clash with minnows Burkina Faso at Old Georgians Sports Club in Harare on Sunday as Zimbabwe begin their 2023 Rugby World Cup qualification quest.
The newcomers are split equally between the two departments.
Deanne Makoni, David Makamba, Sebastian Roche, Keith Chiwara, Marcus Nel and Brandon Mudzekenyedzi are included in the largely experimental run-on side as Dawson keeps looking for winning combinations ahead of the knockout stage of the qualifiers next year.
Loose-head prop Doug Juszczyk, who impressed for Zimbabwe upfront in two friendlies against Zambia in June, will also have the chance to make his Test debut. The New Zealand-based giant front-rower was named on the bench for Sunday’s tie.
Former national Under-20 star Makoni will start upfront at hooker alongside loose-head Tyran Fagan and tight-head Cleopas Kundiona.
Seasoned Harare Sports Club lock Makamba finally gets to become a Sable and will partner Sean Beevor in the second row.
Debuting eighth-man Roche, who plays in England, forms a backrow trio alongside the experienced Biselele Tshamala at blind-side flank and the Sharks-bound livewire Blithe Mavesere at open-side.
In the backline, Dawson has given Keith Chiwara his debut in the crucial flyhalf position, which has not had the perfect shoe-in for Zimbabwe in recent seasons.
Chiwara will however back himself to show his true quality in the number 10 shirt, having done well this season in that position for the University of Fort Hare in Varsity Shield rugby.
But there is genuine ability within the debutants, and Chiwara’s nerves will be calmed by having the prodigious talents of fellow Test rookie Mudzekenyedzi outside him, at 13, as well as another newbie Nel at inside-centre.
There is also the experience of captain Hilton Mudariki to provide leadership in the backline from scrumhalf.
To complement the halfbacks and midfielders is an exciting back-three full of pace, flair and potency.
The freakish Martin Mangongo starts at fullback with the equally mercurial Matthew McNab and Shingi Katsvere on the left and right wing respectively.
Zimbabwe and Burkina Faso will meet in the second of a double-header on Thursday.
Both teams progress to next year’s phase of qualifiers after coronavirus-hit Tunisia withdrew from the pool due to a surge of new infections in the North African country.
Starting: 1 – Tyran Fagan 2 – Deanne Makoni 3 – Cleopas Kundiona 4 – Sean Beevor 5 – David Makamba 6 – Biselele Tshamala 7 – Blithe Mavesere 8 – Sebastian Roche 9 – Hilton Mudariki (captain) 10 – Keith Chiwara 11 – Matthew McNab 12 – Marcus Nel 13 – Brandon Mudzekenyedzi 14 – Shingi Katsvere 15 – Martin Mangongo. Subs: 16 – Matthew Mandioma 17 – Doug Juszczyk 18 – Royal Mwale 19 – Godfrey Muzanargwo 20 – Dudlee White-Sharpley 21 – Riaan O’Neill 22 – Shayne Makombe 23 – Aiden Burnett.
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