Sables reinstated in Africa Cup 1A
GOOD news has come the way of Zimbabwean rugby after Rugby Africa changed its qualifying process, presenting the 15s national team another opportunity to qualify for the 2019 World Cup in Japan.
According to information obtained from a Zimbabwe Rugby Union source, Rugby Africa sent in communication last week stating that the Sables, who had been relegated from the elite Africa Cup Division 1A to 1B, would no longer be demoted. Instead, Zimbabwe will remain in the now expanded 1A group together with Uganda, Kenya and Namibia. The four countries are joined by Tunisia and Senegal, who clash in the 1B final on November 16.
Zimbabwe should have been going down to 1B, with the winner between Tunisia and Senegal taking up the Sables’ spot in Division 1A.
“There will be six teams now in 1A, so we stay and the two finalists in 1B all qualify. We play five games, three away and two at home. The executive council will meet to adopt the new format, which will allow the winner ample time to prepare for World Cup. The winner of Africa Cup 1A in 2017 qualifies for the 2019 World Cup and will have the whole of 2018 to prepare for the tournament,’’ said the source.
Indications are that Zimbabwe, as the bottom team in the 2016 Africa Cup Division 1A, will travel to Namibia, Kenya and Uganda then be home against Tunisia and Senegal.
Rugby Africa last month sent communication that Zimbabwe had a chance to redeem themselves, as the Africa Cup 1B are to be played in January and February 2017, with the winner moving up to 1A. ZRU then sought clarity and that is when it was informed of the new development.
At the end of last month, ZRU decided to re-engage Cyprian Mandenge as Sables coach, a month after he had quit the post. ZRU president Nyararai Sibanda recently stated that Mandenge’s biggest expectation was to take the Sables back to 1A and win the competition next year to qualify Zimbabwe for the 2019 Rugby World Cup.
Meanwhile the Southern Region Select beat its Northern Region counterpart 15-12 at Hartsfield Rugby Ground on Saturday in a hard fought contest used by Mandenge to look at locally-based players.
Gilbert Nyamutsamba, the national sevens team coach, was in charge of the Southern Region, while Daniel Hondo, whom he recently replaced as Cheetahs mentor, was responsible for the Northern side.
Mandenge was scouting for players for next month’s Hong Kong Cup of Nations where the Sables lost all their fixtures last year against Hong Kong, Portugal and Russia.
Some players that have previously featured for the Sables that took part in Saturday’s selection match include Constantine Dinha, Lenience Tambwera, Stephan Hunduza, Lucky Sithole, Brian Makamure, Irvine Nduwa, Gardner Nechironga and Lloyd Machanjaire. — @ Mdawini_29