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The Sables proved technically superior over Kenya and this was the major difference that gave Zimbabwe a 28-20 win over the East Africans in their opening game of the rugby Africa Cup tournament at Prince Edward on Saturday.

The Sables were not as prepared as Kenya who had spent almost a month in camp while the hosts only prepared for a week.

It was the introduction of fresh pair of legs in the form of game changer Lenience Tambwera at 10 for equally talented vice-captain Tichafara Makwanya that breathed life into the Sables.

Zimbabwe could have won by a bigger margin but at times they gave away possession while some of the tries they conceded came from schoolboy mistakes, Kenya capitalising to touch down and came from 0-14 down to level at 17-17 by the end of the first half.

It was a closely fought battle at a packed Prince Edward Jubilee Field – three tries, two conversions and three penalties being all the Zimbabweans needed to put a smile on the home fans’ faces.

Kenya responded through the same number of tries, but were found wanting when it came to kicks, managing one conversion and one penalty.

“The problem is that we relaxed a bit and let Kenya back into the game, the biggest reason being that fatigue was already creeping into us. We did a crash programme in our preparations and did not have conditioning or gym,” said skipper Denford Mutamangira.

“Our energy levels were low and it was clear that the Kenyans were well conditioned and much fitter than us.

“Now if we can win against a side that was in camp for long, with all the resources, imagine how well we could do with added resources.

“Rugby is a team effort, a collective effort and it need everyone to play their part from the union, the technical team and right down to the man wearing jersey 23. If one department is weak then we are bound to have problems.”

And in the second half, Kenya camped in the Zimbabwe half for a long time and with low conditioning levels, the hosts resorted to a kicking game that, however, saw them give away possession.

“Our plan was to play a territorial game, but we need to work on that especially when chasing lines. At times our recovery wasn’t good and given that we were one man down we had to work extra hard and attitude is what counted during that period.

“I should thank the boys for putting up the fight and holding on because they did a great job. We could have won by a bigger margin, but we made life difficult for ourselves by letting them back in the game.”

But then came in Tambwera.

With 10 minutes to go he set-up speedy winger Tafadzwa “MaRubber” Chitokwindo who touched down, making up for an 80-metre solo run that had earlier failed to materialise into a touchdown.

“Of course, that is the whole point of having fresh legs on the park, they breathe new life into the team and that is exactly what they came in and did, to finish off the Kenyans and make us all happy,” said Mutamangira.

Source : The Herald