BY DANIEL NHAKANISO SABLES captain Hilton Mudariki was full of praise for his teammates after they made history by becoming the first Zimbabwe rugby team to win a Test match on European soil with a convincing victory over Netherlands in Amsterdam on Saturday.
Playing in their last competitive match before the start of the 2023 Rugby World Cup qualifiers in France, the Sables made a big statement with a 30-7 victory over a higher-ranked Netherlands side.
It was the Sables’ first-ever win in Europe, also on their first Test match on the continent since 2014 when they lost 23-15 to Russia in a 2015 Rugby World Cup repechage match in Siberia.
Mudariki was delighted with the team’s performance during the victory, which ensured they wrapped up their preparations for the 2023 Rugby World Cup qualifiers on a high note.
“We’re very happy with the result against the Netherlands. Obviously, we came into this game knowing that it was our last one before the Africa Cup, so it was very important to make sure that we executed and played as well as possible,” Mudariki said in an interview with NewsDay Sport yesterday.
“This was also an opportunity to create history and become the first Sables team to win in Europe, but the most important thing was to make sure that we get some confidence going into the match on Friday.”
The 30-year-old scrumhalf, who is one of the most experienced players in the team, having been part of two previous World Cup qualification campaigns, said the win on Saturday was a product of the hard work the team put in during their participation in the Currie Cup First Division in South Africa.
“Obviously, we’ve been working together for the last 12 to 13 weeks and to see where we are now in terms of the work we’ve put in is great. It was important to go into this last game and make sure we are happy with where we are as a team,” Mudariki said.
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“Obviously, there are lots of things that we can improve on from that game. We are going to review the video of the game and have a look at some of the things we can work on and improve on ahead of Friday’s game.”
After their win in the Netherlands, the Zimbabwe team returned to Paris yesterday, where they will continue their preparations ahead of their match against West African giants Ivory Coast in the quarterfinals of the Rugby Africa Cup on Friday.
Should they win their quarterfinal match, the Sables are likely to face a semi-final match against their old foes Namibia, who have an easy last-eight match against Burkina Faso.
Meanwhile, the Sables squad will be boosted by the arrival of highly-rated fullback Tapiwa Mafura, who is expected to join the team today after winning the Carling Currie Cup title with the Pumas after they defeated the Griquas 26-19 in the final played in Kimberly on Saturday.
- Follow Daniel on Twitter @danielnhakaniso