BRENDAN Dawson faces his biggest test since taking over in 2008 as coach of the flagship national rugby side as he prepares to name his final 26-member squad for the 2015 Rugby World Cup qualifiers in Madagascar.
With the team just three matches away from qualifying for a first Rugby World Cup since 1991, a lot rests on the shoulders of players to be named in the final squad today.
Even Dawson himself admitted that the selection panel faced a difficult task in coming up with the final team prior to this afternoon’s squad unveiling to be held at St John’s College.
A total of five players are set to be excluded from the 31-member preliminary squad which has been in camp since last week.
With the team already lacking cover in the backs and the front row departments, most of the casualties are expected to come from the second row and loose forwards where the coaches are spoilt for choice.
The Sables have three experienced props — Denford Mutamangira, Pieter Joubert and Tapiwa Mangezi — all likely to be selected with two players expected to miss out from Lawrence Clemson, Piet Joubert, Royal Mwale and Kevin Nqindi.
Dawson and his technical department faces a difficult task on who to leave out in the loose department which boasts quality players such as Njabulo Ndlovu, Jacques Leitao, Fortune Chipendu, Andrew Rose and Lambert Groenewald.
The coaches are expected to have a headache in the second row where Sanele Sibanda, Michael Passaportis, Graeme Lawler, Jan Ferreira and Schalk Ferreira were vying for selection.
Meanwhile, centre Daniel Hondo and Jacques Leitao are expected to be retained as captain and vice-captain respectively after Dawson hinted that he would remain with the two seasoned players.
Sables preliminary squad
Forwards: Jacques Leitao, Fortune Chipendu, Jan Ferreira, Schalk Ferreira, Lambert Groenewald, Piet Joubert, Graeme Lawler, Matthew Mandioma, Tapiwa Mangezi, Keith Murray, Denford Mutamangira, Royal Mwale, Njabulo Ndlovu, Kevin Nqindi, Michael Passaportis, Andrew Rose, Sanele Sibanda, Nick Winwood, Lawrence Clemson
Backs: Daniel Hondo, Tafadzwa Chitokwindo, Stephan Hunduza, Shayne Makombe, Tichafara Makwanya, Hilton Mudariki, Gardner Nechironga, Tangai Nemadire, Lenience Tambwera, Riaan O’Neill, Gerald Sibanda, Danny Robertson, Peter Du Toit