HARARE – In a pretty unique scenario, the three H’s added to Zimbabwe’s starting line-up for Wednesday’s Rugby Under-20 Africa Cup semi-final clash with Tunisia, are spread evenly across the defending champions’ forwards pack.

Happias Zhou in the front row, Huntley Masterson in the second row, and Hagler Muchenje in the back row.

The trio make up three out of four newcomers to the Young Sables’ starting XV, with winger Panashe Mugorogodi the other one who wasn’t among the starters in the side that demolished Côte d’Ivoire 55-0 in host country Kenya on Saturday.

“We’ve made some positional changes, some of them tactical changes,” Zimbabwe’s head coach Shaun Souza told SportsCast from Nairobi on Tuesday.

The tactical changes, three of them, see Allan Mawunga change from lock to eighth-man. Then in the backline Simbarashe Kanyangarara switches from wing to fullback to replace Benoni Nhekairo while Edward Sigauke moves across the field from right to left wing.

De Souza went on to explain the changes in the side, with players carrying niggles being sidelined as precaution before a potential blockbuster final against either host Kenya or Namibia.

Said the former Sables star: “Tanaka Ndoro has a bit of foot injury, so we’ve put him on a rehab programme, and we would rather save him for the final. We’ve also got Benoni Nhekairo, he’s got a bit of a back strain, we have also put him on a rehab programme, building for the final. Nqobile Manyara, he has a knee strain, so we have also put him on a rehab programme. So those are the three guys we’ve put on rehab programmes as we are trying to focus on the bigger picture. But ja, we have capable bodies coming in as replacements. Hagler gets his first opportunity. Huntley also comes in at lock. So ja, a few changes there. Happias Zhou gets to start as loose-head prop and builds part of the heavy pack we are going with in the first half.”

The Young Sables coaching staff put a lot of careful thought into it and decided to match up with the physicality of a much bigger Tunisian side, and then get the impact players to finish off the North Africans in the later stages of the encounter.

“We have brought in our bomb squad, and I think our bomb squad is very, very quick,” declared De Souza.

“That’s part of the strategy we are going with for the semi-final. The bomb squad, we’ve got Gealan (Jaricha) and Gerry (Zisengwe) coming on as the replacement props. So after the big guys have done the work, we will get the mobile props to come in and then we will assess how it goes. Shadrick Mandaza is our finisher. We’ve got Brendan Jameson also coming for his first cap, he will be coming off the bench. And then we’ve also got (Tawananyasha) Bwanya, coming in for his first cap. So ja, we are trying to get everyone involved, strategically, and also build it into a competitive final. We still have one player that hasn’t had an opportunity. But ja, when he gets his opportunity, hopefully he comes out and make the best of it. We did come here with 28 players, so its horses for courses, and we are going with our best foot forward for the semi-final.”

The match starts at 1pm Zimbabwean time, before the Kenyans and Namibia clash in the other semi-final afterwards, all matches at the Nyayo National Stadium in Nairobi.


Starting line-up: 1. Happias Zhou 2. Bryan Chiang 3. Tadiwa Chimwada 4. Huntley Masterson 5. Tanaka Gondo-Mukandapi (vice-captain) 6. Hagler Muchenje 7. Muzuva Gutu 8. Allan Mawunga 9. Panashe Zuze (captain) 10. Brendon Marume (vice-captain) 11. Edward Sigauke 12. Alex Nyamunda 13. Dion Khumalo 14. Panashe Mugorogodi 15. Simbarashe Kanyangarara.

Substitutes: 16. Stan Muranganwa 17. Gerry Zisengwe 18. Gealan Jaricha 19. Leo Mutendi 20. Shadrick Mandaza 21. Tanaka Chinyanga 22. Brendan Jameson 23. Tawananyasha Bwanya.


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