Home » Sports » It’s Now or Never for Sables

ZIMBABWE are on the verge of qualifying for their first rugby World Cup in 23 years, needing to win their final game against Kenya tomorrow by a bonus point to make it, and the Sables believe their long wait is about to come to an end.

With versatile forward Njabulo Ndlovu and lock Jan Ferreira ruled out of the final game, Fortunate Chipendo was flown to Madagascar yesterday where he joined the Sables but the squad will only have their first training session since the Namibia defeat today.

The last time the two sides met was in Namibia last November, where the Sables overpowered the reigning African champions Kenya 29-14 having taken a 26-0 lead at half-time.

Zimbabwe are second in the four-team competition, four points adrift of leaders Kenya whom they play tomorrow afternoon at the Mahamasina Stadium in Antananarivo, Madagascar.

And all the Sables need to get an automatic qualification ticket to England next year for the World Cup is a bonus point and make sure they beat Kenya by at least eight points.

This means Zimbabwe have to score at least four tries in their win and make sure that Kenya do not get a bonus point for losing by at most seven points and Sables coach Brendan Dawson knows what is at stake.

Dawson was part of the 1990 squad that beat Morocco in the final game of the qualifiers to make it for the 1991 World Cup.

“Our minds, hearts and focus are all on the biggest prize and we are not interested in coming out as the second best side. We have the talent and we have the players so we are only looking at getting the World Cup ticket.

“Finishing second will make life more difficult for us because then we will have to go on and play Russia and other teams which is a difficult route for us . . . we need to believe and we can make it,” said Dawson.

The Sables convincingly beat Madagascar 57-22 in their opening game at the same venue exactly a week ago but they went on to suffer a heartbreaking 20-24 loss to Namibia when they surrendered a 20-10 lead.

Kenya are yet to lose and opened their campaign in style with a shock 29-22 win over the Namibians and went on to thrash Madagascar 34-0, earning bonus points in both games.

But Zimbabwe got a bonus point in their loss, after going down by four points, and this could also come in handy tomorrow in case Namibia convincingly win over Madagascar.

It’s not a two-horse race as Namibia have five points and are a threat to Zimbabwe as their outcome against Madagascar could have a direct bearing on the final log standing for the automatic ticket.

The team that finishes second in the competition go to play-offs where they will take on Russia in Siberia and the winner of this encounter goes on to meet the winner of the game between Hong Kong and Uruguay played on home and away basis.

If Zimbabwe wins the tournament, then Dawson would become the first person to take part in a World Cup with Zimbabwe both as a player and coach.

But Kenya are not taking this game lightly and have reaped benefits from spending more than two months in South Africa and roped in South African Jerome Paarwater as their head coach.

“We need to focus until the last game. Anything can happen. We’ll keep the boys fresh and focused to the last game. We need points out of that (Sunday) game to qualify, but we are on track,” said Paarwater.

“We brought in 11 new guys against Madagascar and it worked in our favour because it’s going to come down to the last game on Sunday (tomorrow) and we need to keep our guys fresh.

“We know Zimbabwe is going to come all out and it will be hard, but our boys will be fresh.”

Zimbabwe director of rugby Liam Middleton, believes a win for the Sables will change not only the face of local sport in the country in general.

“This is a significant moment for Zimbabwe rugby, Zimbabwe sport and Zimbabwe as a country.

We want to achieve something for Zimbabwe and put our sport back on the international arena and give hope to all Zimbabwean sportsmen and women.

“Therefore, we will leave nothing in our determination to win this Sunday (tomorrow), our aim remains to win the qualifier and we cannot think of second place and our only focus is on winning the Kenya game.

“We are mentally prepared, both teams (Zimbabwe and Kenya) are very determined, the players have held a steely determination to win this qualifier despite the narrow loss to Namibia which, however, did not waver that determination,” said Middleton.

Sables Squad:

Forwards: L. Cleminson F, Mudariki, J. Ferreira, S. Ferreira, L. Groenewald, P. Joubert, G. Lawler, J. Leitao, M. Mandioma, K. Murray, D. Mutamangira, N. Ndlovu, K. Nqindi, S. Sibanda, F. Chipendu.

Backs: G. Cronje, H. Mudariki, L. Tambwera. T. Chitokwindo, D. Hondo, T. Nemadire, S. Hunduza, D. Robertson, R. O’Neill, G. Sibanda, P. du Toit, K. Lang

Technical team: Brendan Dawson (head coach), Cyprian Mandenge (assistant coach), Brighton Chivandire (team manager), Sharon Mkumbuzi (physiotherapist).

Source : The Herald