BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
Sables wing Shayne Makombe says the Zimbabwe senior national rugby team are gathering confidence and momentum at the right time as they brace for their crunch Rugby Africa Cup semi-finals clash against Namibia at the Stade Maurice David in Aix-en-Provence on Wednesday.
The 30-year-old France-based left wing scored two brilliant tries on Friday night in Marseille as the Sables kept their hopes of qualifying for next year’s Rugby World Cup alive with a convincing 38-11 victory over West African giants Ivory Coast.
The comfortable win against the Elephants could not have come at a better time as they prepare to face the more fancied Namibians, who have qualified for every edition of the Rugby World Cup since 1999.
“Since our participation in the Currie Cup First Division in South Arica we were trying to score more tries as backline players and I am just relieved that as a collective we’re starting to gel and express ourselves as we know we can,” said Makombe in an interview with NewsDay Sport yesterday.
“Looking ahead to the Namibia, the guys are focused on the next task and we are confident we will do well. We reviewed the Ivory Coast game and took on what we need to work on and the positives from it.”
Makombe, who plays for Saint Denis Union Sport in France’s Fédérale 1 competition, will be hoping for another solid performance along with the rest of the backline which is expected to play a crucial role against the Namibians.
Namibia, whose rugby side is also known as the Welwitschias have dominated past meetings between the two teams but the Zimbabwe side will be confident of finally breaking the jinx and qualify for their first Rugby World Cup since 1991.
History favours the Welwitschias, who won the last clash against Zimbabwe in November last year 41-10 in the Stellenbosch Challenge played in South Africa.
The Sables’ last win against Namibia came back in July 2001 when they triumphed 27-26 in an African Championship fixture played at Hartsfield Rugby Ground in Bulawayo.
In total, the Sables have only triumphed three times against the Namibians in 33 matches, which means they have an uphill task ahead of them on Wednesday.
However, Zimbabwe will be buoyed by their preparations ahead of the Rugby Africa Cup which saw them competing in the Currie Cup in South Africa while they recently registered a big win against higher-ranked Netherlands.
Meanwhile the other semi-final will pit Kenya against Algeria after the two nations won their quarterfinal matches against Uganda and Senegal respectively.
The winners of the two semi-finals will meet in the final scheduled for July 10 where the winners will take their place in Pool A at Rugby World Cup 2023, alongside France, New Zealand, Italy and Uruguay. The runners-up will head into the Final Qualification Tournament.
- Follow Daniel on Twitter@danielnhakaniso