The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: Sables Ready for 'Dirty' Madagascar - Hondo

SABLES captain Daniel Hondo has called for the nation to support the Zimbabwe rugby side who are set to take on "dirty" Madagascar in their Africa Cup / World Cup qualifier opener in Antananarivo this afternoon.

Sables coach Brendan Dawson believes the Malagasy are going to come out fighting in a dirty manner, as they have done in the past, but the former skipper of the side says he has a plan to counter their act and shut them down in space.

The crunch tie against the Malagasy will be key if the Sables are to make it for the 2015 World Cup and Hondo, the Harare Sports Club centre, says they need all the prayers they can get from home.

"Even if we are not at home we need a lot of those messages on the social networks, they are very much important in our build-up because these (the fans) are all the people we can rely on for support.

"We just need the nation to rally behind us no matter which club or town we are from because if we are to make it to the World Cup we need that support because at the end of the day pride and glory goes to Zimbabwe as a whole," said Hondo.

However, Dawson is expecting a dirty and very physical game against the Indian Ocean islanders, who are known for a running game and utilise their back-line more than any other department.

Madagascar are not new opponents to both Hondo and Dawson and the countries have met nine times, Zimbabwe winning six times, losing twice and there is only one draw to talk about between the two sides.

"I know that it is going to be a very physical game, they love a quick game but they play dirty, which makes it physical at the end of the day, but we have a mission to complete and we will not let any of their tricks get to us," said Dawson.

The last time the two sides met was in last year's competition in the same country at the same venue where Zimbabwe emerged 38-18 winners and Dawson would love to continue with that winning streak at Mahamasina Stadium.

"We have a talented bunch of smart players and I think our back-line will make the difference on the day and we can make it even against Kenya and Namibia, but we just have to clear our first hurdle.

"I have always wanted to see Zimbabwe take part in the World Cup against New Zealand and that is what I want to see as a coach as well.

"We can't afford to lose any games and we just have to bring the Cup home," said Dawson.

He was part of the 1991 Zimbabwe World Cup side and his dream is to see the Sables make it for the world stage for the third time and if he qualifies, he becomes the first local to appear at the World Cup both as a coach and player.

And just like Dawson, Hondo and his charges understand the mission at hand, and they know this is the closest Zimbabwe has come to qualifying for a World Cup in 20 years

"It definitely is a crucial game for us and a win will set the right tone for our campaign so we just have to follow the game plan and execute it well.

"We know that Madagascar are at home and they are going to have a good crowd watching at the stadium but we will not let that get to us because we are focused on the ultimate prize," said Hondo.

The former Cheetahs vice-captain retired from the shorter version of the game towards the end of last year and believes his concentration in the XVs game will give the Zimbabwe midfield an upper hand despite not having a natural outside centre.

"Sevens is very much different from XVs where there is little space to manoeuvre and so a lot of things would count, the skill level is different and there is not as much speed and there are 30 men on the park.

"I have been playing XVs since I retired last year and there are quite a number of players in our side that are also in the Cheetahs set-up and I think we have to use that Sevens international circuit exposure to help us in this tournament," said Hondo.

Sables Squad

Starting XV: D. Mutamangira, K. Murray, K. Nqindi, S. Sibanda, J. Ferreira, G. Lawler, J. Leitao, L. Groenewald, H Mudariki, G. Cronje, S. Hunduza, R. O'Neill, D. Hondo (captain), T. Chitokwindo. T. Nemadire.

Replacements

M Mandioma. P Joubert, K. Lang, N. Ndlovu, P. Du Toit, D. Robertson, G Sibanda, L. Tambwera, F Mudariki, L Clemson, S. Ferreira.

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