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Zimbabwe Sables World Cup Dream Alive

by Staff reporter
03 Jul 2022 at 08:29hrs | Views
ZIMBABWE'S Sables have kept alive their dream of ending a 31-year wait to qualify for the Rugby World Cup after getting their final qualification bid off to promising start with a hard-fought 2022 Rugby Africa Cup quarter-final win over Ivory Coast on Friday night.

They set themselves a semi-final date with arch-rivals Namibia.

The Africa Cup, which is being used as the World Cup qualifier, burst into life in the French city of Marseille on Friday.

In a game that will be best remembered for its physicality and tenacity of Zimbabwe's defence, the Sables powered to a 38-11 victory that moved them within two wins of a berth at the 2023 World Cup.

Namibia made light work of Burkina Faso, thumping the Stallions 71-5 in their quarter-final assignment.

Zimbabwe's last appearance at the World Cup was in England in 1991.

By their coach Brendan Dawson's admission, the Sables were not as clinical but they were still happy to get the job done.

However, for everything they did wrong or failed to implement efficiently, they made up for it with a solid defensive effort.

Zimbabwe got their tries from centre Matthew McNab, winger Shayne Makombe, who got a brace, and replacement forwards Aiden Burnett and Matthew Mandioma.

Skipper Hilton Mudariki, voted man of the match, chipped in with a conversion and three penalties.

Currie Cup winner Tapiwa Mafura, who had a brilliant game throughout, also got in on the action with a conversion.

In response, Ivory Coast found Zimbabwe's defence hard to break and could only muster two penalties from fly-half Eugene Kosse and an unconverted try by replacement Alex Pelati.

The Sables' disciplined defending seemed to frustrate the Ivorians, who ended up resorting to some questionable tactics and some roughing up.

For their actions, the Elephants saw as many as three players – Jean-Philippe, skipper Dion Oulai and Mohamed Fofana – sent to the sin bin, while flanker Eugene Nzi was sent off together with Zimbabwe's Burnett towards the end of the game.

Both Burnett and Nzi are now set miss their teams' next games.

Sables perennial rivals Namibia, led by their skipper Torsten van Jaarsfeld, who scored three tries, barely broke a sweat as the Welwitschias dispatched Burkina Faso.

Mudariki told The Sunday Mail Sport from France yesterday they would take it one game at a time, with the focus being on winning the Africa Cup.

"The goal is to win this tournament, and our focus was on Ivory Coast after the Netherlands game.

"We wanted to make sure we got over that hurdle first, which we did and we are very happy with that," he said.

"Now, we turn to Namibia, and it is very important that we bring everyone back in terms of knocks and niggles.

"It's a short turnaround and it is very important that we have all 31 players for the coaches to select, and the medical team is on that.

"We haven't really gone into depth with regards to Namibia but the coaches will be going through their reviews and strategies starting tomorrow (today)."

Kicking once again turned out to be a sticky problem, with Mudariki guilty of missing two conversions including a sitter.

"I did leave a few points on the field but my kicking is work in progress.

"We will continuously work on the goal-kicking because it is going to be important in these games as the competition gets harder and stiffer."

Mudariki added that they would appeal against the red card issued to England-based star Burnett for a tussle involving Enzi which went well beyond referee Vivien Praderie's whistle.

"It is a big blow but we are still hopeful that he might be available for the Namibia game.

"We are going to try and contest the red card, and so we will just have to wait and see. "It would be a huge disappointment not to have him with us; he brings that physicality that we are going to need against Namibia," he said.

What remains key for the Sables is that they cleared the opening hurdle.

"We knew that it was very important to get the win to stay in the tournament, and we are happy that we managed to get the job done."

Coach Dawson said the win over the West Africans was a "great victory" for the team.

"I am obviously happy with the result, as it's always great to win and get your first game off with a win.

"Ivory Coast were always going to be a tough opponent; they were always going to come hard at us as they are a big side with most of their players based here in France."

He conceded that the real challenge lies ahead against a tougher and more experienced Namibia.

"Being more clinical is one of the things that we need to work on during the next few days before we take on Namibia.

"We have to be a lot sharper, a lot more direct and a lot more aggressive.

"We have to make sure we look after our ball, we execute the breakdowns and set-pieces better."

There is no doubting that after passing the Ivorian test the Sables will be high on confidence.

Source - The Sunday Mail
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