ZIMBABWE are on the verge of dislodging rivals Namibia from their current position as Africa’s best rugby side after storming back into the top 30 on the International Rugby Board (IRB) rankings released yesterday. DANIEL NHAKANISO SPORTS REPORTER
Global powerhouse South Africa, who are second in the world behind world champions New Zealand, are generally not included on the African ranking list as they do not play on the continent.
Zimbabwe will head into tomorrow’s crucial 2015 Rugby World Cup final qualifier ranked 27th in the world and just one place behind their opponents Namibia.
Namibia dropped four places from position 22 to position 26 after their 22-29 defeat to Kenya which threw their bid for a fifth successive World Cup qualification in huge doubt.
Zimbabwe’s dominant 57-22 win over Madagascar on Saturday not only left them on track to qualify for next year’s Rugby World Cup, but also lifted them up three places on the rankings from 30th
The Sables are now ranked higher than South Americans Chile who dropped from position 27 to 28. Moldavia dropped a place to 29th and second tier of European side Belgium (30).
A win over Namibia tomorrow will almost certainly lift the Sables above the Namibians when the rankings are reviewed again next week while also leaving them just a match away from returning to the Rugby World Cup for the first time in over two decades.
Sables captain Danny Hondo yesterday said they would be going all out for a win against the Namibians.
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“We will definitely be going out for a win against the Namibians. Our preparations have gone well, we had a rest day yesterday (Sunday) and had our first session after the Madagascar game today, and it looked good,” he said.
“The boys are in good spirits ahead of the game. We will obviously be taking them seriously, but we have gone through our strategies and making sure we are ready on Wednesday.”
Meanwhile, Argentinian referee FranÇisco Pastrana will take charge of Zimbabwe’s must-win encounter against Namibia in the second round of the 2015 Rugby World Cup qualifiers at the Mahamasina Stadium in Antananarivo, Madagascar, tomorrow.
He will be assisted by Lourens van der Merwe (South Africa), Rodney Bonaparte (South Africa) Pastrana (34) who started refereeing in 2004, became the first referee outside South Africa, Australia and New Zealand to take charge of a Super Rugby match after being included on an 18-member refereeing panel for the 2013 Super Rugby season.
He was, however, removed from this year’s Super Rugby refereeing panel after drawing heavy criticism for his performance at the Blues versus Cheetahs match in March.