THE Zimbabwe senior national XVs rugby side have paid a heavy price for their poor run of form and gradual decline on the world rankings over the last two years, as they have lost their slot in the Cup of Nations tournament to be held in Hong Kong in November.
BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
The four-nation tournament for third-tier rugby union teams from different continents provides ideal preparations for nations to qualify for the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
Zimbabwe, who narrowly missed out on qualification for the 2015 Rugby World Cup, have participated in the last two editions of the tournament held in Hong Kong since making their debut in the World Rugby-sanctioned invitational tournament five years ago in the United Arab Emirates.
The Sables will, however, be missing in action during this year’s tournament slated for November 10 to 18 in Hong Kong, after losing their spot to Kenya, who finished as runners-up in this year’s Rugby Africa Gold Cup.
Kenya, who have registered consecutive away wins over Zimbabwe in the last two years, will come up against defending champions Russia, currently ranked 21st in the world, hosts Hong Kong, who sit 24th globally, and 28th-ranked Chile.
The Kenya Rugby Union (KRU) confirmed their participation in this year’s tournament after receiving their official invitation from the event organisers.
“Kenya’s participation at the Hong Kong Cup of Nations has been confirmed by the Kenya Rugby Union, who received an official invite from the event organisers last week,” a statement on the KRU website read.
“The competition, which replaced the HKRU’s autumn international Test series, has been played since 2015 with Russia emerging victorious in the two editions held since then.
Other teams that have featured in the competition include Zimbabwe, Portugal and Papua New Guinea. The Simbas, who finished second at the recent Africa Gold Cup, are currently preparing for a two-match Test series against Hong Kong in Nairobi on August 20 and 26.”
Zimbabwe have been on a free-fall on the World Rugby rankings since Cyprian Mandenge took over from Brendan Dawson as head coach in January 2015, winning just four of their 17 international matches.
This has resulted in the Sables plunging from position 25 in the world and third in Africa behind South Africa and Namibia in January 2015 to 46th globally and seventh in Africa, according to the latest standings.