NEWPORT Gwent Dragons are still hopeful that flying wing Tonderai Chavhanga will win his race to be fit for the start of the season – but they won’t be taking any risks.
The region are desperate to get off to a flying start in the RaboDirect Pro12 after being left in the blocks last season.
However, they are not prepared to rush back influential winger Chavhanga, last season’s top try scorer with seven in 18 appearances, just to aid that bid.
The Zimbabwe-born former Springbok had an operation over the summer after suffering a knee injury against the Ospreys in the penultimate game of the campaign.
He is behind the rest of the squad in pre-season training and will not feature in next Saturday’s first friendly against a Gwent Select XV or the away encounter with Biarritz the following Friday.
The Dragons conditioning team have set the 28-year-old a target of the August 17 warm-up clash against London Irish but are prepared to move that date back depending on how he goes over the next few weeks.
The plan is for Chavhanga to step up his running work so that he can feature against new Italian outfit Zebre in the RaboDirect Pro12 opener at Rodney Parade.
But the region are prepared to do without their influential overseas star if necessary.
“It’s massively important that we don’t rush Tonderai back,” said head coach Darren Edwards.
“At the moment his target is the London Irish friendly but he will come back cautiously and if that has to change then so be it.
“Tonderai’s main asset is his speed so we need to be very careful with a knee injury.
“His main job is to finish expertly and score tries, so if he is not operating at his top level then his ability to do that dramatically reduced.
“We need Tonderai for the full season so we will not be taking no risks, and the same goes for Mike Poole.”
Poole has made good progress in his return from a third major operation on his right knee and has impressed the conditioning team.
The 26-year-old will be one of the Dragons options on the flanks along with Wales internationals Will Harries and Tom Prydie, while centres Adam Hughes, Pat Leach and Andy Tuilagi have all previously covered out wide.
However, the Dragons are prepared to be without 21-year-old wing Matthew Pewtner because of a long-term development plan.
He will spend the season with the Wales sevens squad, though the Dragons will be able to secure his return should they suffer an injury crisis.