CAPE TOWN – The bad news (for the media, anyway) is that the Zimbabwe Academy won’t be coached by the man with the T-Shirt slogan quotes, former Springbok coach Peter de Villiers, in this year’s SuperSport Rugby Challenge.

But the good news is some of the names they’ve roped into their management team could well be the youthful team’s secret weapon as they make their bow in the competition via their game against the Border Bulldogs at the Sisa Dukashe Stadium in Mdantsane on Sunday.

Coached by former Zimbabwe flanker Brendon Dawson, who scored a try against Ireland at the 1991 World Cup, the competition’s new boys also have ex-Springbok winger Tonderai Chavhanga as their assistant coach and former Boks Marius Hurter and Brendan Venter consulting as scrum and defence coaches.

As the 16th side in the tournament and the new addition in the third year of the competition, Zimbabwe come in as something of an unknown factor.

Team manager Jason Maritz put it succinctly: “We are mindful of the fact that we come into this event as an unknown entity, which could surprise a lot of the teams. But first things first, we want to be competitive but also importantly stick to our structures.

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“We don’t want to be in awe of the teams we play against because we’re up against teams like the (Cell C) Sharks and (DHL) Western Province, teams that come with massive history and pedigree. The main thing is to put up performances we can be proud of but also show that the boys are buying into how we want to build
the team around the coach’s philosophy.

“So we’re hoping to unpleasantly surprise the unions we’re going to play against.”

Maritz said the squad, which has an average age of between 22 and 23, was made up of national sevens players recently at the Hong Kong Sevens, Zimbabwe Sables
players, youth players and about 12 Cape Town-based Zimbabwean players who had campaigned in the Varsity Cup or played first team club rugby.

“Zimbabwe Rugby approached SuperSport last year to give the boys exposure to good rugby and to rebuild. We didn’t have a great Gold Cup campaign and the idea behind this was to say we’ve hit rock bottom and now we need to start our campaign for the next World Cup now by giving the boys exposure to top level rugby and growing from there.”

The Zim Academy, which is in the South Pool along with Border, Western Province, the Sharks, the Toyota Free State Cheetahs XV, Boland, SWD Eagles and the Eastern Province Elephants, will be based in Cape Town and play their home games at False Bay Rugby Club.