Rusike seeks to banish 2015 COSAFA Cup nightmares

Zimbabwe striker Evans Rusike wants to banish memories of a nightmarish 2015 COSAFA Cup and inspire the Warriors to victory when they face Botswana in the last of the quarter-final ties of the 2018 edition at Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane on Sunday.

Rusike made his debut at the tournament in South Africa’s North West province four years ago but there was no happy ending for him as Zimbabwe not only bowed out at the group stage but suffered their heaviest defeat in the competition following a 4-1 drubbing by eventual champions Namibia in a Group A decider.

That poor run by five-time champions Zimbabwe has continued to somewhat haunt Rusike, who was then playing back home for Hwange in the Premier League.

Now the 28-year-old forward, snapped up by SuperSport after two stellar seasons with Martizburg United believes he has the chance to get it right this time as he looks to make only his second COSAFA Cup tournament appearance.

Rusike has also evolved into a prolific striker over the last four years and was a member of Zimbabwe’s 2017 African Cup of Nations squad in Gabon.

With the Warriors looking to defend their COSAFA Cup title, Rusike is expected to lead their attack in the absence of talisman Knowledge Musona and Zimbabwe coach Sunday Chidzambwa has shown in training a keenness to partner the SuperSport forward with Abbas Amidu who has previously played in the South African Premiership for Kaizer Chiefs and Black Leopards.

“We are the champions now and we just have to win this game and show that we have the capacity to defend the cup but with the way Botswana have been playing in their group matches, it is not going to be easy.

“For me, I really need some success this year because I do not have any fond memories of my first time to play in the COSAFA Cup when our squad was split into two and our coach Callisto Pasuwa had to remain behind with some good Under-23 players and take charge of the Africa Games qualifier against Swaziland.

“When I first played in the tournament I was also a bit naive but with the little time I have had in the ABSA Premiership I think I have improved my game and I am ready to play a bigger part in this COSAFA Cup,’’ Rusike said.

Rusike felt that the Zebras’ emphatic 6-0 victory over Mauritius in their final Group B match was a huge statement of intent by Botswana on their ambitions of being crowned the COSAFA Cup champions for the first time.

“Botswana sent a big signal to us that we are not going to have it easy against them in the quarter-final and any team that scores six goals in a match deserves to be respected and we will just have to work hard for us to win this match and keep our hopes of returning with the silverware to Zimbabwe,’’ Rusike said.