BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
THE Sables have lined up a high-profile international Test match against the Netherlands ahead of the final round of qualifiers for the Rugby World Cup 2023 to be played in France from July 1 to 10.
Zimbabwe’s senior national rugby team will take on the higher-ranked Dutch national rugby side, nicknamed “The Oranges” at the Rugby Stadium Amsterdam on June 25.
The two teams were initially scheduled to play against each other in November 2020, but were forced to shelve the plans due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
After an almost two-year wait, the match is finally set to go ahead and it will come at an ideal time too for the Sables, who are seeking to qualify for their first Rugby World Cup since 1991.
The match is likely to be the Sables’ last competitive match before they go to France for the Rugby Africa Cup 2022, where they will face Ivory Coast in the quarter-finals at the Stade Maurice-David in Aix-en-Provence on July 2.
The Rugby Africa Cup, which will be hosted at Aix-en-Stade Provence’s Maurice-David and Marseille’s Stade Pierre-Delort, will double as the final qualification tournament for the Rugby World Cup 2023 which will also be played in France.
Zimbabwe’s rugby side is currently competing in South Africa’s Currie Cup First Division, where they are participating as the Goshawks.
After week seven of the Currie Cup first division, the Goshawks are in seventh position on the 10-team standings on 12 points, five points behind fifth-placed Boland Cavaliers who have played a game more.
The Brendan Dawson-coached Zimbabwean outfit was on a three-match winning streak before succumbing to a 48-0 defeat against SWD Eagles at Outeniqua Park in George last Friday.
After the slipup in George, the Goshawks will be seeking a return to winning ways when they face Leopards at their temporary home ground at False Bay Rugby Club in Cape Town on Saturday.
Zimbabwe Rugby Union (ZRU) president Aaron Jani said they have been encouraged by the Goshawks’ performances in the Currie Cup First Division.
“We have been very encouraged by the developments in the Currie Cup. We have managed to get the game time we were craving for so much and it’s good to see that we are getting fitter and there are a lot of positives to take out of the matches we are playing,” Jani said in an interview with NewsDay Sport.
The former Zimbabwe international believes while there is still some work to be done ahead of the World Cup qualifiers, the team’s preparations for the 2022 Rugby Africa Cup are on the right track.
“We still have a lot of things to work on but the most encouraging thing is we have a bit more time. We are very grateful that we have managed to get this game-time to allow the technical team to have a look at all the possible combinations and all the players we can pick from so that we get the best possible squad to represent us in the Africa Cup,” the ZRU boss said.
- Follow Daniel on Twitter @danielnhakaniso