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Sables centre Cleopas Makotose believes it is payback time for his side when they take on Kenya in their rugby Africa Cup opener this afternoon at Prince Edward School.

Makotose is one of the most gifted players of his generation and has been handed great responsibility after he was named as one of the three quarters.

He returns to the international game three years after he last played for the senior national rugby side.

The former Sables captain will be playing number 12 this afternoon, and Makotose has been tasked to replace former captain Daniel Hondo who retired at the end of a failed World Cup campaign last year

Makotose, a brilliant and versatile backliner, is comfortable at fullback and wing as well but he feels honoured to have a starting place three years after he last played for the Sables in their Africa Cup win in Tunisia.

He will partner outside centre, Riaan O’Neil, in a game the Prince Edward Tigers will curtain raise with a game against bitter rivals St John’s College Rams.

“The coaches have shown a lot of faith not only in me but in all the players that have been named in the Match Day 23 and as a team I believe it’s payback time because we have to, at least, match the belief he has shown us by giving our all.

“It’s always a different feeling each time I get a call-up to the national team.

“I wasn’t really expecting to get a call-up but each time we wear that green-and-white jersey we do so with pride.

“We are at home and there is need to impress, a home win here would be of huge significance to our campaign because we have two home games and if we can win tomorrow (today) then we are assured we will have more support during the next home game.

“However, it is not just about the support base, but making sure that we put our campaign on track from the first game,” said the former Sables captain.

Exciting scrummy Charles Jiji also makes a return and is in the starting XV ahead of Stephan Hunduza, vice-captain Tichafara Makwanya starts at 10 while Gardner Nechironga, Tafadzwa Chitokwindo and Tangai Nemadire complete the back three.

Captain Denford “Dedzva” Mutamangira will be with Royal Mwale and Farai Mudariki upfront, locks Fortunate Chiendu and Sanele Sibanda making up the tight five while Shingingi Mpofu, Andrew Rose and Kingsley Lang are the loose trio.

Kudzai Muzorewa, Lawrence Cleminson, Tatenda Murwira, Bisele Tshamala, Boyd Rouse, Stephan Hunduza, Lenience Tambwera, Antipas Kamwendo are all on the bench.

However, Kenya are here with the aim of defeating Zimbabwe in front of their home fans and have the potential to do so as they are coming from a win over Portugal.

Makotose said although Zimbabwe have dominated Kenya since they started playing each other in the early 1980s, they will not take them lightly.

“We have to respect them as a national team, but that is only as far as respect goes because we will not take them lightly.

“The objective is to play hard and it’s good that we have the blend of both senior and young players for direction, experience and this mix will just make us better side,” he said.

Simbas coach Jarome Paarwater yesterday downplayed their win over Portugal saying it was insignificant.

“That was a lucky win against Portugal and that is why we are not reading much in how we played then.

“Zimbabwe are a g side and we are looking forward to a tough battle. It’s not going to be an easy game.

“It was very painful losing to Zimbabwe in a game we needed to win to make it for the World Cup last year, so we really are up for the challenge.

“I know that on the day anything can happen but we are here to take points for the Africa Cup and also to stay in Group 1A,” said Paarwater.

Kenya captain Brian Nyikuli says his side is looking forward to the challenge of playing Zimbabwe.

“I expect a tough game, very physical. But apart from the game I should say we have had a wonderful day as well because we went to a school (Harare High in Mbare) where we conducted a coaching clinic.

“It’s always wonderful to spend time with the young ones because you might be inspiring a future star and why not give back to the community when we have the will and time to do so,” said Nyikuli.

Sables Starting XV

1-8: Denford Mutamangira (captain),Royal Mwale, Farai Mudariki, Sanele Sibanda, Fortune Chipendu, Shingai Mpofu, Andrew Rose, Kingsley Lang.

15-9: Tangai Nemadire, Tafadzwa Chitokwindo, Riaan O”Neill, Cleopas Makotose, Gardner Nechironga, Tichafara Makwanya, Charles Jiji,

Substitutes: Kudzai Muzorewa, Lawrence Cleminson, Tatenda Murwira, Bisele Tshamala, Boyd Rouse, Stephan Hunduza, Lenience Tambwera, Antipas Kamkwindo

Source : The Herald