SABLES and Harare Sports Club fullback, Cleopas Makotose has joined Bulawayo side Matland Warriors as they begin beefing up their squad ahead of the National Rugby League. Makotose, who was part of the Africa Cup winning squad last year, is expected to leave the capital today and becomes the third high-profile player to depart from Harare Sports Club following the exit of Samson Makuku, and prop Raymond Dzvairo, who joined bitter rivals Old Hararians.
Warriors' prop, Kudzai Mudzekenyedzi, yesterday told The Herald, the acquisition of Makotose is a blessing as they were looking at improving on last year's finish where they lost to Sportivo in the final.
The Warriors only lost to Sports Club in the league games and their only defeat came at Harare Sports Club, meaning they had a perfect record at home.
It's something Mudzekenyedzi believes can motivate his side this year.
"We have started our pre-season preparations and the turnout at the training sessions so far has been good because we managed to retain most of the players we had last year," said Mudzekenyedzi.
"And this year we have started by adding the services of Cleopas (Makotose) who is an experienced player, having played for both the Cheetahs and the Sables and went on to win the championship with Sports Club last year. As soon as we got an opportunity we snatched him and we have also roped in the services of (former) school players and some who came from our Under-20 set up because we are after developing players and not poaching as some would say.
"The advantage of such players is that they grow within the system and understand the club protocol, tradition and culture so it is easy for them to fit into our club system. We are determined to go all the way and win the trophy this year because I believe we can do better than what we did last year given it was only our first season in the national league.
"There are a lot of experienced players in our squad, the likes of Jan Ferreira, Tapiwa Mangezi and the youthful ones in the mould of Biselele Tshamala, who was a revelation last season."
Mudzekenyedzi said this year was promising to be a better one for his side as they aim to win the league title and become the first Bulawayo side to do so in over a decade. And, based on the events of last year, Mudzekenyedzi feels they have a better chance of improving but feels it is not going to be a stroll in the park.
"I believe last year was a great one for us and we got to the final because of self belief, we changed training methods as the season progressed so our players were fitter and focused as we wanted to be more a competitive side," said Mudzekenyedzi.
"We made our home ground our fortress, played as a unit and we had one of the best packs in the league and we are still pressing to carry over from where we left off last season.
"It is, however, going to be a challenge because a number of teams would also like to win the title and they are also keeping their tabs on new players and this pushes us to do better and make the game more competitive and exciting.
"We have retained Reuben Kumpasa as our head coach and he will be assisted by former Old Miltonians player and coach, Vusimuzi Ndebele, who has been to some coaching clinics in South Africa, but we are yet to appoint the team manager.
"So, basically, our aim this year is to be a better side than we were last season and this means bringing the championship to Bulawayo. Our dominance in the league was felt and this is the reason we had quite a number of players in the national team and this year we aim to have at least 10 players called up to the training squad and eight making it into the final team."
Mudzekenyedzi added that they have so far managed to strike a deal with an insurance company that will see them secured when it comes to medical expenses for the club.