Sables weather Tunisia storm

HARARE - When referee Kurt Weaver blew his whistle to end the Rugby Afrique 1A Championship match between Zimbabwe and Tunisia, there was a huge sigh of relief across Prince Edward School. 

The Sables had played poorly when they had been expected to steam roll past the North Africans to secure a 19-8 win.

Zimbabwe had to weather the storm of sustained pressure from the Tunisians on their way to a second win in the competition.

Cyprian Mandenge’s side struggled for possession and territory as they were put on the back foot by the North Africans, who have now lost all their three matches in this group.

The Sables only crossed the whitewash once after replacement lock Fortune Chipendo finished off a nice tea move halfway through the first half.

Before that, flyhalf Tichafara Makwanya had converted two penalties while the visitors had replied with their own penalty from Chams eddin Khlifa.

From there on, Zimbabwe failed to impose their game plan as there was no clean ball for the fast backs to utilise.

The second half was more insipid from the Sables as they had to rely on some resolute defending to hold back the Tunisians.

“Tough encounter; Tunisia played well, they played to their strengths and kept their structure,” Mandenge told reporters after the match.

“We didn’t play well. We only played our game plan in the first two minutes or so, but there is no ugly win. I thought it was an open game but only two tries were scored the entire match.”

Up next for Zimbabwe is a date against Namibia on August 15.

Owing to limited resources, Mandenge could again be forced to have another “crush programme” for a training camp ahead of the clash against the Welwitschias.

But unlike Zimbabwe’s previous encounters with Kenya and Tunisia in which they were nowhere near their best but still managed to crawl over the finish line, Namibia are no pushovers.

The Rugby World Cup-bound Welwistchias have a 50-man squad currently in camp in preparation for rugby’s biggest showpiece where they have been drawn in Group C along New Zealand, Argentina, Georgia and Tonga.

Namibia, ranked second in Africa, have had international in November last year against Canada (17-13) in Colwyn and 29-20 to Portugal in Lisbon.

They play Russia in Windhoek in two test matches on July 11 and 18.

They are also using the Africa Cup as part of an extensive campaign that their rugby union has rolled out to ensure the Welwitschias is adequately prepared for the Rugby World Cup.

On the other side, Zimbabwe coach does not have such luxury, neither is he likely to have his best troops for the Namibian tie.

Mandenge has made it clear that despite the prevailing situation he will not go out of his way to persuade players with Zimbabwe connections to answer the call of national assignments.

“You see you need to play with the guys who want to play for the country,” he said.

“If there are people putting their hands up for selection those are the ones who will call up. If they are people putting their hands up for the country we will consider them. But we will not go out of our way to get people to come play for Zimbabwe.”

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