HARARE – Zimbabwe head coach Shaun De Souza is upbeat about his team’s adaptability to give back whatever a bulkier Tunisian side will throw at them in the semi-final of the Rugby Under-20 Africa Cup on Wednesday.

Defending champions Zimbabwe demolished hapless Côte d’Ivoire 55-0 in their first match on Saturday to reach the semis, whilst Tunisia also racked up half a century points in an easy 52-16 win over Madagascar.

The victorious Zimbabweans – who had played earlier in the morning on the opening day of the tournament in Kenya – remained in the Nyayo National Stadium in Nairobi on Saturday to witness the Tunisia-Madagascar encounter later in the afternoon.

A watchful De Souza remarked that islanders Madagascar weren’t competitive enough against Tunisia for Zimbabwe to accurately measure the North Africans’ strength ahead of their clash with them on Wednesday.

“We’ve done a bit of review, we are still analysing the game more on the Tunisian side, trying to see how best we can penetrate them,” De Souza told SportsCast from Nairobi on Sunday.

“We have deduced that Madagascar were definitely very poor. They were not as strong as the team they had last year. But ja, we will work on a strategy.”

With their much heavier squad, Tunisia are likely to implement a more confrontational and abrasive style against Zimbabwe on Wednesday.

Tunisia’s players during the pre-match ceremonies before their match with Madagascar on Saturday.

The size factor doesn’t however faze De Souza, who is backing up his own set of big men to return the favour in the physical contest.

He added that an additional advantage is that his talented Zimbabwe outfit can also turn to its expansive game, with ball in hand, when the situation calls for it.

“We have two options,” De Souza stated. “Tunisia seemed to be fitter than last year. So we will either go hard and big, and dominate set-pieces, or we will go light and fast. So ja, those are the two options we have. We have two sessions to work on that strategy, and see which one works best, which formula we will go with. A decision will be made just before game day. We have some options up our sleeves. We just need to see which one will work best.”

If Zimbabwe win the tournament again, known as the Barthes Trophy, the Young Sables will clinch Africa’s single qualification position for July’s World Rugby Under-20 Trophy, which the other semi-finalists Kenya and Namibia are also vying for.

De Souza is buoyant about the prospects of his team, captained by diminutive scrumhalf Panashe Zuze.

“Boys are excited, the mood in camp is good,” commented De Souza. “We just had a gym session this (Sunday) morning, generally a light afternoon, with more of video reviews and individual analysis. So ja, a good recovery day, and then tomorrow (Monday) we build it up with two field sessions, focusing on different aspects of our plans going forward.”

Zimbabwe’s captain and scrumhalf Panashe Zuze breaks away against the Ivorians on Saturday.

Former Sables ace De Souza’s assistant coaches are fellow ex-Zimbabwe internationals, Costa Dinha and Marvin Chirume.


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