Junior Sables out for blood

CALM BEFORE THE STORM . . . Zimbabwe Under-20 coach Shaun De Souza (centre) and his captain Benoni Nhekairo (right) address the media in Harare yesterday.

THE thirst for blood and a little anxiety best describes the mood within the Zimbabwe Junior Sables camp ahead of their Barthes Trophy opener against Tunisia at Harare Sports Club’s Machinery Exchange Grounds this afternoon (kick-off 4pm).

Zimbabwe Under-20 coach Shaun De Souza has rather mixed feelings about hosting this tournament on home soil and jokingly alluded to some of the pitfalls during a Press conference at the match venue yesterday.

“I was a bit wary about Zimbabwe hosting this tournament when I was first approached and asked about it,” said De Souza 

“The issue we often have at this stage is that the parents become side-line coaches, the whole neighbourhood will probably be there at the venue on Saturday (today) and you are bound to find most thinking that they know more than the coaches.

“It can make things a bit difficult but, that being said, we have put in the work, we had a couple of mental coaches coming into camp to talk to the boys and we are definitely ready for the challenge,” he said.

Zimbabwe’s Benoni Nhekairo underlined the hunger for success that has been brewing in their dressing room.

“We always say this when we are alone as a team, ‘we are yet to achieve anything and it is actually the guys in the team last year and the year before that won those Barthes Trophy’.

“As a squad, the 2024 team, we are hungry and want our own Barthes Trophy triumph.

“We have put in the work, the hours and we are now ready to go out there and play some rugby,” he said.

Four teams are due to take part in this edition of the Barthes Trophy, one that will be played under a round robin format spread over three match days.

Kenya and Namibia are set to get the ball rolling at 2pm after which hosts Zimbabwe will clash against Tunisia.

Two of the visiting teams, Kenya and Namibia, have already been in the country after having arrived on Thursday and had a feel of the match venue yesterday during the traditional captain’s run.

Zimbabwe’s opening day opponents were only expected late last night after having encountered delays in the United Arab Emirates.

“Tunisia, unfortunately, experienced some delays. They were supposed to catch a connecting flight in Dubai and encountered the bad weather that has affected the region,” said the local organising committee’s media liaison Ruvimbo Chakoreka.

“There has been some massive rainfall and flooding there, which delayed many international flights.

“Luckily, their team liaison officer managed to catch a connecting flight and has been in Zimbabwe for a day or two.

“He has been keeping us updated and we can safely report that the team managed to catch a flight and landed in Zambia.

“We expect them to arrive here in Zimbabwe later tonight (yesterday),” he said.

Tunisia, much like Namibia and Kenya, are a bit of an unknown quantity for the Junior Sables, as there is little next to no video footage of their training and matches online.

De Souza has brushed this off, insisting that his charges will stick to their game plan and keeping an eye on his opponents as the tournament goes.

“We are quite aware that our opponents will target us and know what we are capable of after having posted our footage online, while they have kept their footage secret.

“We have no problem doing this (posting footage) as we want to improve.

“We are ready and will give them a good run for their money.

“For us to come from a sixth-place ranking and then go on to be back-to-back champions is a statement of intent.

“We intend to carry on playing our game and strive to take African rugby to the next level,” De Souza said.

A decent crowd is expected at Harare Sports Club as the Junior Sables begin their journey towards an unprecedented treble of Barthes Trophy titles and De Souza and his charges have the pedigree to achieve the feat.


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