HARARE - The Old Mutual Zimbabwe Under-14 rugby squad, got their South African campaign off with a well-deserved 27-15 win against a determined Ehlanzeni Districts Under-14 squad on Saturday, in a warm-up game at a well-attended White River Rugby Club in Mpumalanga.
The Junior Sables had a nervous start to the game, allowing their opponents to run at them and keep possession for a lot of phases.
Most of the play was concentrated in the Zimbabwe half and only try-saving tackles from loose forwards Rua Karimazondo and Kudzaiishe Maringa kept the hosts at bay.
The first opportunity they got their hands on the ball, Zimbabwe flyhalf Connor Higgins put centre, Munashe Maisera through the gap for Zimbabwe to put the first points on the board.
Moments later the hard-running and bulky centre crossed the line after a scintillating run.
However the hosts were not lying back. In the true South African rugby spirit, they were not going to give up.
With massive home support urging them on, they threw everything they could at Zimbabwe. Just before the half-time whistle, Ehlanzeni scored a well-worked try.
Intimidated by the big crowd, the Junior Sables lost concentration and the hosts powered-over for two quick tries leaving the score at 15 - 10 with 10 minutes still to play.
Coach Gordon Pangeti made some strategic changes and gave his whole bench a run on the park.
Winger Carl Kawodza broke loose and used his speed to dot down in the corner levelling the score at 15-all.
Substitute Panashe Masaya made his presence felt, when he picked up from the base-of-the-ruck and scored to put Zimbabwe ahead, 20 - 15.
With just a few minutes left on the clock, the hosts relentlessly attacked Zimbabwe, however the Junior Sables held their shape in defence and onto their lead.
Big centre, Jehiel Maguranyanga put the game beyond reach when he picked up a loose pass and in a scintillating run, galloped the whole length of the field to dot down under the posts.
Milton Manyangadze duly converted to seal a hard fought 27 - 15 victory for Zimbabwe.
Junior Sables team manager, Tan Dinhidza commented: “It was a tough encounter, but the boys learnt a lot from this game, of which I am sure they will take the lessons learned into the Blue Bulls game on Monday.”
Ehlanzeni Districts coach, Chris Van Wyk said: “It was a privilege for us to play and host Zimbabwe. It was a spectacular match, the boys enjoyed it, the spectators had a great time, unfortunately we lost to a better Zimbabwe team. We wish them the best in the Craven Week.”
Zimbabwe were scheduled to play the first game of the Craven Week against the Blue Blues at 10:30AM, today.
Meanwhile, Munashe Mhere of St. George's College was named the team’s captain for the Craven Week.
The 12-year-old number 8 will be deputised by hooker Brendan Mason and flyhalf Connor Higgins, both of St. John's College.