SOUTH Africa-born lock forward Jannie Stander (pictured) has been ruled out of Zimbabwe’s 2019 Rugby World Cup qualification campaign after it emerged that he is ineligible to play for the Sables due to World Rugby’s Regulation 8, which governs players’ international eligibility.
BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
The 25-year-old Pumas star was conspicuous by his absence in the Sables team which drew 23-all against Morocco in the opening match of the Rugby Africa Gold Cup at the Machinery Rugby Stadium at Harare Sports Club on Saturday.
Sables coach Peter de Villiers had initially included the Limpopo-born former South Africa Under-20 player in his squad to provide the solidity in the forwards, but surprisingly he didn’t make even the replacements bench together with his older brother Johan Stander.
It has, however, since emerged that Zimbabwe Rugby Union (ZRU) were advised against selecting the player in the match day squad after it emerged that Stander has been “captured” by South Africa and unavailable for the Sables.
Captured is a term used when a player becomes tied to one country and can no longer represent another nation on the international stage.
In Stander’s case he was captured by virtue of having been part of South Africa’s Under-20 side at the 2013 Junior World Championship in France.
The Baby Boks were until January this year registered as South Africa’s “next 15-a-side national representative team” which according to World Rugby regulations meant any player who represented them at the Junior World Championships between 2013 to 2017 will be ineligible to represent another country.
De Villiers admitted that Stander’s absence was a major blow for their plans, but challenged the remaining players to fill the void he is expected to leave behind.
“He was part of our plans for the physical confrontations, it was a big blow, but then again, the other guys are international players. They must stand up and take up the challenge, if one guy can’t be there you need to take the opportunity make the squad yours, if they didn’t take it we have to make hard decisions then,” he said.
In addition to Stander’s last minute blow, De Villiers was left lamenting his side’s inability to take their chances after being held to a frustrating stalemate by the visiting Morocco national rugby team at Harare Sports Club on Saturday.
Flyhalf Lenience Tambwera missed a last gasp close range penalty which would have handed the Sables a vital win ahead of tougher matches against Kenya, Tunisia, Namibia and Uganda.
“You can describe it as a game of missed opportunities, we made it too easy for them in the game and in the end we paid the price. I don’t care what level you are playing in, if you don’t take your chances, your opponents will punish you,” De Villiers said.
“We gave them two soft tries and then we had to play catch up after that, the character of the team came out when we had to play catch up and we just managed to draw it at the end and we missed a chance to win it.”
De Villiers, who was leading Zimbabwe for the first time since his appointment in February however insisted the Sables have the character and quality to rebound from Saturday’s frustrating draw.
“We are all alive and when you’re alive there’s hope, so we’ve got hope that we will qualify. There are a lot of positives to take from this match and we are not down and out, but we are not very happy for not taking our chances,” De Villiers said after the match.