Last season was one of hope and encouragement for Southern Rocks, the youngest of Zimbabwe’s five franchise teams.
After going for three years without a victory in the Logan Cup, although they did win a Twenty20 tournament, they won three of their eight Logan Cup matches, with great credit to their two main strengths – their powerful seam bowling attack and the inspiring coaching of Dave Houghton.
Sadly, they face this season without either of those strengths. Houghton has decided to remain in England for the season, while two of the three outstanding seam bowlers have moved on from Masvingo.
Brian Vitori, although he did not have a great season in 2012/13, is studying at Speciss College in Harare and therefore will be available for Mashonaland Eagles instead, while Tawanda Mupariwa has returned to Bulawayo and will play for Matabeleland Tuskers.
Only Tinashe Panyangara remains, and the captaincy will fall to him or Richmond Mutumbami – who last season carried the burden of a weak batting line-up magnificently. These two are now very much the leading players of the franchise and will carry a heavy burden.
The loss of two leading seamers will require the likes of Trevor Garwe and the promising Cuthbert Musoko to step up. The other regular local players from last season are still available, and will need to take on extra responsibility.
One addition to the squad is Bernard Mlambo, the former Matabeleland Tuskers batsman, who has valuable experience to add to the team.
The spin bowlers Hilary Matanga and Tafadzwa Kamungozi both disappointed last season, but they are still there and will be looking to do better this time.
Matt Pardoe, the Worcestershire batsman, will be the overseas player. One omission from the contracted players is Alester Maregwede, an experienced and talented player who too often tried to carry the burden of the side with a grim defensive innings, when he did so much better when he sought to dominate the bowling. He is still around, but on a pay-as-you-play contract.
Shepherd Makunura, who was the assistant coach to Houghton, takes over as coach.