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Sables history-making leap

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Zimbabwe’s senior rugby side — the Sables — yesterday rose to their highest-ever ranking on the International Rugby Board (IRB) world standings following their Confederation of African Rugby (CAR) Africa Cup triumph in Tunisia on Saturday.

The Sables, who beat Uganda 22-18 in the final, climbed two places from position 31 to 29 when the rankings were reviewed yesterday.

Prior to Saturday’s win, the Sables had also convincingly beaten hosts Tunisia
30-14 in the semi-finals to book a place in the final.

The two wins in Tunisia ensured the national XVs rugby side entered the rankings’ top 30 for the first time since they were introduced in October 2003.

The Sables, who are unbeaten in Test matches both at home and away since 2010, have been on a gradual rise on the rankings.

Their recent triumph ensured they retained their pole position in the Africa Group 1A, which will help in their seeding in the 2015 World Cup qualifiers in 2014.

Next year they will be in the same group with Uganda, Kenya and Madagascar, who won promotion from Group 1B.

The Springboks, because of their high standing international rugby, do not play in the Africa Zone in the World Cup and have automatic entry at the finals.

Zimbabwe will have to contend with Namibia if they intend to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1991.

Namibia, who maintained position 22, have qualified for the last four Rugby World cups in 1999, 2003, 2007 and 2011.

Meanwhile, Uganda jumped three places on the rankings from number 44 to 40 despite losing to Zimbabwe in Saturday’s final. The Cranes’ rise on the rankings was made possible by their 21-19 win over the higher ranked Kenyan side in the semi-finals on Tuesday last week.

Tunisia took the biggest knock after two home defeats, resulting in a nine-place slump from 34 to 43rd — the lowest position they have ever occupied in the rankings.

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