THE Sables will need to win the 2022 edition of the Rugby Africa Cup to automatically qualify for the Rugby World Cup 2023 in France.
BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
The qualification formula for the global showcase was announced by World Rugby yesterday.
Zimbabwe’s senior national 15s rugby side will be aiming to finally compete in their first World Cup final after 29 years by qualifying for the 2023 edition.
The Sables last played in the World Cup back in 1991 in a tournament staged in five European countries, but since then played second fiddle to rivals Namibia who have qualified for the last six editions of the tournament.
Zimbabwe came just a bonus point of qualifying for the 2015 World Cup under the tutelage of former national team captain Brendan Dawson (pictured), who is now on his second stint as head coach.
However for them to finally break the jinx and qualify for the global tournament, the Sables will need to win the 2022 Rugby Africa Cup which will act as the final qualifying tournament to select one of the teams that will join reigning World champions South Africa as Africa’s two representatives in the global showpiece in France.
The runner-up in the Africa Cup will have another chance at a repechage tournament against teams from other continents.
World Rugby chairman Bill Beaumont, who was recently handed a fresh mandate at the helm of rugby’s global governing body, said the qualifying process was agreed on after consultation with unions and regions in January and a full review of performance at Rugby World Cup 2019.
“After a full review of performances at Rugby World Cup 2019 and close consultation with our regional associations and member unions, we are delighted to outline the details of the Rugby World Cup 2023 qualification process, which will provide a genuine opportunity for full member unions to qualify for rugby’s showcase event,” Beaumont said.
“The process has been designed to maximise existing events to reduce costs for participants and organisers alike, which is important as we all recover from the global pandemic.
“On behalf of World Rugby, I’d like to wish all teams involved the best of luck on their journey to France 2023.”
Finer details of the regional competition formats and dates will be announced in due course, World Rugby said in a statement.
The announcement of the qualification format for the 2022 Rugby World Cup comes at a time when the Sables and other national teams on the continent are set to miss out on action this year following the decision by Rugby Africa to cancel the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Competitions cancelled include the Rugby Africa Cup, which was due to get underway on May 30. Zimbabwe was expected to play Morocco and Ghana in the early rounds of the continental tournament which the Sables last won in 2012.
The cancellation of the Rugby Africa Cup came in the same week the South African Rugby Union advised their Zimbabwean counterparts that they were in the process of cancelling this year’s SuperSport Challenge.
Zimbabwe was set to make its second appearance in the SuperSport Rugby Challenge after their debut season last year when they used False Bay Rugby Club in Cape Town as their home ground.