Botswana’s Rugby National Team, the Vultures, continued to lose influential players as they prepare for the Africa Cup Tournament billed for Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, from the 27th of June to the 4th of July.
Gilbert Machobane became the latest casualty after he was ruled out of the squad to take part at the tournament with a broken fibula bone.
Speaking to Standard Sport, the Vultures’ Head Coach, Neal Gouws, says Gilbert’s injury came as a blow as it came to light when they had already picked the team and forced them to try find another replacement quickly. The coach is, however, upbeat ahead of the team’s Zimbabwe trip despite the lack of game time faced by his charges.
This follows the team’s failure to play a friendly against the Blue Bulls second team after the latter could not honor the fixture due to the Soccer World Cup in South Africa.
The coach, however, says the spirit in his camp is very high. The team is expected to face the hosts Zimbabwe in their first game on June 30. Despite the team having never beat Zimbabwe, with their last encounter being a 23 ÔÇô 3 drubbing at the hands of their neighbours, the coach says the team is prepared for the showdown to be played at Bulawayo’s Hartsfield Rugby Grounds.
“We are looking forward to the game and the morale is high. Players are prepared and they sing a lot of Setswana songs,” says the Coach.
The senior team left for Francistown where they will stay and hold their last two training sessions before leaving for Bulawayo on Tuesday.
Gouws says they have been working on their weak points, mainly ball retention, concentration and aggression during their preparations. “We have been training them to play with as much contact as possible during our training sessions,” he told Standard Sport. Despite going into the tournament with a broken team, having lost four influential players, the coach says he is happy with his preparations as his players understand his game plan.
Gouws will be assisted by Jaco Strachan and Cobus Coetzee as forwards and backline players respectively. For his part, Botswana Rugby Union (BRU) President Bob Lekan, who is also the teams Head of Delegation, says the preparations for the team’s stay in Zimbabwe have gone well. The BRU president says they have also prepared well for the team’s two day stopover in Francistown. As regards the travel arrangements, Lekan says every player’s documents are in order and they expect no incidents of players being left at the border as happened during their trip for a friendly in Polokwane.
On the issue of the team not having good preparation games, the BRU chief says they are already in negotiations with Zimbabwe and Swaziland as well as some South African Provincial Rugby teams in view of signing binding contracts for them to give the Vultures friendly games in future. Some of the provincial sides expected to sign the agreement are the Leopards, South African National Defense Force and the Blue Bulls.
Meanwhile, the Vultures, who have had their kit stolen after their bus was broken into early this month were officially handed their national stripes yesterday ahead of their trip to Zimbabwe.
The kit is part of the sponsorship agreement between the country’s Rugby Union and the team’s sponsor, Orange Botswana.
As part of the agreement, the team is given a new playing kit every year. The team’s delegation will include Bob Lekan (Head of Delegation and BRU President), BRU’s Vice President Major Oupa Farid Pandor, Malebogo Nono Panene (physysiotherapist) while Collin Kandoko will be the team’s medic.