SABLES head coach Brendan Dawson says his charges are raring to go regardless of their limited knowledge of their opponents Burkina Faso as they seek a winning start in the first of two Rugby Africa Cup Pool D matches at Old Georgians Sports Club today.
Ranked 34th in the World Rugby rankings, the Sables will start as overwhelming favourites against the 90th ranked Burkina Faso, when the two teams meet today and on Wednesday to determine, which team finishes top of the group ahead of next year's knockout stages of the competition.
Although very little is known about Burkina Faso ahead of the maiden meeting between the two teams, Dawson says he is expecting a clinical performance from his charges, who are pumped up and raring to get back on the field of play after an intense eight week training camp.
The Sables, who last month played two international friendlies at home against Zambia, have not played a competitive match since winning the four-nation Victoria Cup, but Dawson expects his charges to be too strong for the West African minnows.
"Of course Burkina Faso is a totally unknown nation in the game of rugby but as long as we play our game and stick to the way we want to play the game I believe we should be good. I'm really confident in the guys that they are going to be precise, accurate and clinical," Dawson said ahead of the match.
"The guys are pumped up, we've been in camp for the last seven to eight weeks preparing after some of our preparatory games were cancelled.
"Playing two games against Zambia was really good for us; it dusted the cobwebs and all the rust under our armpits so that's really good for us. We are really excited and pumped up."
The match against Burkina Faso will be an opportunity for the players to finally get some Test rugby under their belts after a long wait which started in May with the resumption of their training camp.
Despite playing Zambia, the Sables' plans of playing preparatory matches against South African teams, Namibia and Portugal were all hampered by Covid-19 restrictions.
The Sables were also forced to cancel their trip to Tunisia for the Rugby Africa Pool D matches at the 11th hour after the North African side pulled out of both hosting and participating in the matches following a worrying upsurge of Covid-19 cases in their country.
The matches against Burkina Faso will be an opportunity for the coaching department to experiment and assess the quality of their squad depth ahead of tougher knockout matches against some of Africa's top sides next year.
Zimbabwe has named six uncapped players in the Sables starting line-up, with Dawson finally having an opportunity to hand the exciting New Zealand-based outside Brandon Mudzekenyedzi his Test debut.
Mudzekenyedzi, who impressed with his flair and physical presence in midfield during the two friendlies against Zambia and will partner the England-based former Zimbabwe Under-20 player Marcus Nel, in what will be a new centre pairing.
Zimbabwe's other uncapped players are flyhalf Keith Chiwara, hooker Deanne Makoni, lock David Makamba and number eight Sebastian Roche.
Scrumhalf Hilton Mudariki will captain the side, which has a good balance of youth and experience both in the starting line-up and on the replacements bench.
The match kicks off at 1500 hours and will be streamed live on Zimbabwe Rugby Union and Rugby Africa social media platforms.
Tyran Fagan, 2. Deanne Makoni, 3. Cleopas Kundiona, 4. Sean Beevor, 5. David Makamba, 6. Biselele Tshamala, 7. Blithe Mavesere, 8. Sebastian Roche, 9. Hilton Mudariki, 10. Keith Chiwara, 11. Matthew McNab, 12. Marcus Nel, 13. Brandon Mudzekenyedzi, 14. Shingirai Katsvere, 15. Martin Mangongo
Replacements: Mathew Mandioma, Doug Juszczyk, Royal Mwale, Godfrey Muzanargwo, Dudlee White-Sharpley, Riaan O'Neil, Shayne Makombe, Aiden Burnett.