The Sables’ emphatic 42-24 victory over the much-fancied Kenyans at Harare Sports Club on Saturday not only saw them restore their dominance over their East African rivals but also left them in the driving seat in the rugby tri-nations Victoria Cup.
The Sables now lead the three-team log with nine points from two matches having beaten both Kenya and Uganda, with the former having a single point while the Uganda are still to get off the mark.
The Sables could further move a step closer to winning the competition with a victory against the Ugandans at Hartsfield Grounds in Bulawayo this weekend before the decider away to Kenya.
The Kenyans are the defending champions in the competition, but were reduced to just an ordinary side by the supercharged Sables who got their revenge after they lost to the same opponents at home last year.
In front of a packed Harare Sports Club, the Brendan Dawson coached side dominated the Kenyans in almost every department with 20-year-old halfback Charles Jiji, by far the smallest man on the field stealing the show with an impressive performance on his home debut.
The diminutive former Prince Edward student, who recently won a rugby scholarship at Hartpury College in the UK, captured everyone’s attention in the sellout crowd with a spell-binding performance.
Even the Kenyans’ coach Michael Otieno pinpointed Jiji as the main catalyst for his team’s defeat, as he was behind almost all the Sables’ attacks.
Winger Gardner Nechironga crossed over a brace of tries either side of the half to add to further tries by man of the match, Jiji, fullback Danny Robertson and flanker Jacques Leitao.
Flyhalf Tichafara Makwanya was impressive from the kicking tee, top-scoring with 17 points from four conversions and three penalties and was also sure-footed in kicking for touch.
The towering figures of Costa Dinha and debutant Schalke Ferreira were impressive in the line-outs, while the whole forward pack dominated the visitors from the scrums despite having what looked like a smaller pack.
The backline also gave an explosive performance due to the good coordination between Jiji and Makwanya with skipper Daniel Hondo, Cleopas Makotose and enterprising fullback Danny Robertson all top of their game in both defence and on the offensive.
The win is also set to catapult the Sables to a higher position on the International Rugby Board rankings as the Kenyans were ranked higher in 35th position to the Sables’ who are ranked 40th.