Sables have some room for improvement

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THE Zimbabwe rugby team will need a much-improved performance if they are to win a second Africa Cup crown after labouring to a 28-20 win over Kenya in an Africa Cup Group 1A encounter in front of a packed and partisan crowd at Prince Edward School on Saturday.

BY DANIEL NHAKANISO

Kenya, who had come into the match seeking revenge against a side who ended their 2015 Rugby World Cup dreams, found themselves trailing 14-0 after early tries by Sanele Sibanda and Riaan O’Neill before coming back to level 17-17 at the interval.

The second half was edgy with both teams exchanging penalties before the Sables pulled clear with another penalty for a 23-20 lead, before the winning try by Tafadzwa Chitokwindo deep into the game to seal the win.

While Zimbabwean rugby fans were relieved at the winning start by the Sables, it wasn’t a great performance by any stretch of the imagination and if they play like that against old foes Namibia, they will certainly lose.

Lack of competitive game time and limited time in camp probably explains why the Sables lacked the killer instinct when they were in control of the match.

Unlike their opponents, who had come into Saturday’s encounter on the back of a month-long training camp and a high-profile preparatory match against Portugal, the Sables had to make do with a week-long training camp and no fine-tuning match.

Sables

The inadequate preparations almost came back to haunt the Sables as they missed too many first-time tackles, while giving away possession too often which allowed Kenya to come back into the match.

Zimbabwe had targeted to dominate the Kenyans upfront, but their tight five struggled to impose itself in contact areas with skipper Denford Mutamangira seemingly fighting a lone battle.

Andrew Rose, playing at flank, was one of the few bright lights in the team.

The Scotland-based loose forward was simply sensational with his carries and leg-driving, while number eight Kingsley Lang was excellent at the back and always offered a threat.

Zimbabwe’s backline never really quite clicked as flyhalf Tichafara Makwanya, who was impressive from the kicking tee, struggled with his distribution.

It was until the late introduction of Lenience Tambwera and Boyd Rouse that the Sables were able to spread the ball wide resulting in the late try by Chitokwindo.

Zimbabwe coach Cyprian Mandenge said he was hoping to have more time with his charges to prepare for their next Africa Cup match against Tunisia on July 4 in the capital.

“There were a lot of positives and negatives and we need to regroup and eliminate those negatives ahead of our next match. Fitness is obviously a major worry and ideally, we should get more time with the team. It helps because if you do a crash programme, you have to do so many things at one go. So we need more time,” Mandenge said.