THE focus of the world rugby family will be on the winner-take-all clash between Namibia and Kenya in Windhoek on Saturday as they battle for Africa’s sole ticket to next year’s World Cup in Japan as the curtain comes down on the 2018 Rugby Africa Gold Cup.
BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
For Zimbabwe, survival will be the buzzword as they seek to avoid slipping to the backwaters of African rugby by upstaging Uganda in their own backyard in their last match of the 2018 Rugby Africa Gold Cup match in Kampala on the same day.
The Sables have endured a nightmarish Gold Cup campaign after failing to register a win in their first four matches in the continental tourney which doubles as the qualifiers for next year’s World Cup.
After starting their campaign with a disappointing 23-23 home draw against Morocco, the Sables never played to their full potential, succumbing to defeats against Kenya (45-36), Tunisia (18-14) and Namibia (58-28) which leaves them on the brink of relegation from the top tier of African rugby.
However, a win over Uganda would guarantee the Sables another run in the Gold Cup in 2019.
Heading into the final round of matches, the Sables occupy 5th position on three points courtesy of a superior points’ difference, ahead of bottom placed Morocco, who have the same number of points.
Tunisia, who are also not safe from relegation, are fourth on four points, while Uganda, who are in third position on nine points all but secured their place in the top group with a convincing 49-27 home victory over Morocco last weekend.
Survival in the top-tier would also go some way to erasing memories of their dismal campaign for the Sables, who started with high hopes following the appointment of former Springbok head coach De Villiers and the coming on board of several sponsors to bankroll the campaign.
The Sables, who left the country on Tuesday afternoon, held their first training session in Kampala yesterday ahead of the do-or-die clash.
De Villiers’ men will, however, be without the services of the Mudariki brothers, Hilton and Farai, as well as flyhalf Lenience Tambwera, who didn’t make the trip to Kampala.
Zimbabwe will also be hoping that the pair of flyhalf Brendon Mandivenga and centre Kudzai Mashawi, who were nursing injuries from knocks received in the game against Namibia, would have fully recovered ahead of the match.
Denford Mutamangira (captain), David Mukanda, Lawrence Cleminson, Brian Nyaude, Fortunate Chipendo, Takudzwa Mandiwanza, Connor Pritchard, Tapfuma Parirenyatwa, Jeremiah Jaravaza, Brendon Mandivenga, Tafadzwa Chitokwindo, Tafadzwa Mhende, Kudzai Mashawi, Shayne Makombe, Shingirai Katsvere, Mathew Mandioma, Irvine Nduwa, Cleopas Kundiona, Antipas Kamkwindo, Lucky Sithole, Ernest Mudzengerere, Lenience Tambwera, Mathew McNab, Kudakwashe Nyakufaringwa, Takudzwa Kumadiro