ZIMBABWE . . . . (13) 28
KENYA . . . . . . . . . . . .10
ZIMBABWE narrowly missed out on automatic qualification next year’s 2015 Rugby World Cup to Namibia on points’ difference despite a 28-10 win over the reigning African champions Kenya during the last round of the qualifiers in Antananarivo, Madagascar, yesterday.
While the win lifted the Sables above Kenya on the log standings on points’ difference, it was not enough to give them automatic qualification as they needed to score four tries to secure the crucial bonus point.
Zimbabwe’s failure to get the fourth bonus point opened the door for the Namibians as it left them needing to beat hosts Madagascar by more than 53 points to deny the Sables.
In the end, Namibia, who beat the Sables 20-24 last week, did just that after thumping Madagascar 89-10 to secure Africa’s sole automatic Rugby World Cup ticket and a place in Pool C of the competition where they will play New Zealand, Argentina, Tonga and Georgia.
Zimbabwe, however, can still qualify for their third Rugby World Cup if they come through the four-team play-off (repechage).
If the Sables beat Russia in the first round of the play-offs which, according to reports, will be played in Siberia next month, they would then face either Uruguay or Hong Kong in the final.
Should they win the two-legged play-off final, they would secure the last place in Pool A alongside the hosts England, Wales, Australia and Fiji.
The Sables should, however, only have themselves to blame for complicating their qualification matrix as they had a chance to set up an opportunity to score the fourth try in the final stages of their match against Kenya.
Leading 25-10 with less than five minutes on the clock, the Sables won a penalty in the Kenyans’ 20 metre line. With Kenya down to 14-men, the Sables could have gone for the fourth try, but to the surprise of many, flyhalf Guy Cronje, after consultations with teammates, decided to go for posts — a decision which proved very costly in the end.
Despite the subsequent failure to automatically qualify for the World Cup, the Sables’ win against Kenya ranks as one of their most brilliant wins in recent years.
The Sables got their points through three tries from man-of-the-match Hilton Mudariki, centre Riaan O’Neill and flyhalf Guy Cronje, who also chipped in with three penalties and two conversions.
Kenya touched down once through centre Humphrey Kayange with flyhalf Lavin Asego’s conversion and a penalty kick earning their other points.
The Sables showed great character to fend off a spirited display by the Kenyans, who had their fate in their own hands before the match. Kenya were hot favourites to make history by winning qualification for their first ever Rugby World Cup as they could even afford to lose with a bonus point or even draw and still qualify.
Prior to yesterday’s match, Zimbabwe had played the Kenyans 15 times since 1981, winning 10 times against Kenya’s five victories.
They made it 11 wins yesterday with a perfomance that would rank as one of their best wins in recent memory, although the only blemish was their failure to get the crucial bonus point.
Zimbabwe proved once again to be too strong for Kenya after outclassing them in the forwards department, dominating the line outs, scrums and breakdowns.
The Sables, who have been to the World Cup twice in 1987 and 1991, drew the first blood after pilling pressure on the Kenyan try box, resulting in a penalty that Cronje converted for a 3-0 lead.
Kenya won a penalty of their own a few minutes later which was converted by Asego to put the matters level.
But it did not take long before Cronje extended the lead through another penalty for a 6-3 lead.
In the 31st minute, Kenya’s sevens star Kayange touched down his team’s first and only try of the match after making a brilliant run from Asego, who converted it for a 10-6 lead.
Centre O’Neill, who was impressive, surged over for the Sables’ first try of the match just before half-time after some good work by front rowers Denford Mutamangira and Kevin Nqindi.
Cronje made no mistake as he easily slotted home the conversion to ensure the Sables took a 13-10 lead at half-time.
Despite starting the second half strongly, Kenya found the Sables’ defence unyielding and it was the Brendan Dawson-coached side who got the first points of the second half, scoring their second try of the match through scrumhalf Mudariki.
After missing the conversion, Cronje made amends with a converted try which left the Sables needing one more try to qualify automatically for next year’s World Cup.With Kenya down to 14 men, after having their player yellow-carded, Zimbabwe made a curious decision to go for posts instead of going for the fourth try which ultimately cost them an automatic ticket to next year’s World Cup.
Sables team vs Kenya (1-15): D Mutamangira, K Murray, K Nqindi, S Ferreira, S Sibanda, G Lawler, J Leitao, L Groenewald, H Mudariki, G Cronje, S Hunduza, R O’Neill, D Hondo (c), T Chitokwindo, T Nemadire
Replacements: M Mandioma, P Joubert, F Mudariki, F. Chipendu, K Lang, P Du Toit, L Tambwera, G Sibanda