By Petros Kausiyo
Zimbabwe Rugby Union president Aaron Jani was a relieved man after the Sables finally found a way to win with a deserved 38-18 victory over Uganda in Kampala on Saturday. The victory ensured they avoided relegation and retained their place in the Rugby Africa Gold Cup.
The Sables’ poor campaign had not only ended their hopes for a place at next year’s World Cup in Japan but had also heaped pressure on coach Peter De Villiers, the players and Jani’s leadership.
Jani, in rallying the Sables ahead of their clash against Uganda, challenged them to fight for their reputations and the reputation of the country.
The ZRU boss praised his players’ work ethic and “never say die spirit.”
“I am just relieved that we live to fight again next year,” Jani said.
A drop into the Silver Cup would have meant less international assignments for the Sables and crucially made it difficult for the senior team’s brand to attract the kind of interest and support they received from players, the corporate world and other stakeholders this year.
“We also need to, at least, come number two in the Gold Cup next year so that we can get an extra three internationals in the Hong Kong Asia tournament.
“Obviously, number one means more resources from World Rugby. A balance is required and we need to consult widely on the best way forward for our team,” Jani said.
Sables captain Denford Mutamangira reckoned his team had a lot of potential that deserved to be rewarded by more than just securing their place in the Gold Cup. The Sables responded like cornered animals when they overpowered Uganda in a make-or-break Test at Kyadondo Rugby Club in Kampala on Saturday.
Zimbabwe’s victory ensured that the Sables avoided the chop while, the team that surprisingly held them at home in their opening game of the campaign in Harare on June 16 – Morocco – were relegated.
Favourites Namibia sealed the Gold Cup for the fifth successive time title and qualified for the 2019 World Cup in Japan as the Welwitschias made it five out five wins courtesy of a 53-28 triumph over Kenya. Kenya, who finished runners-up, will have another chance to claim a spot at the World Cup when they play the repechage qualifiers in November.
“We just needed this as a team and like I always said this team has so much potential to end the campaign without a win,” said Mutamangira.
“The guys really worked hard.
“We needed it for ourselves, we needed to win for our coach, we owe him big time, he has been with us right from the beginning and he said I believe in you guys, I believe I have picked the right guys for the Sables and we have shown that. We can only grow from here.”
Mutamangira said the average age of the squad that had been assembled promised a lot for the future.
“It’s a very young team, I think average age of about 24, 25 and definitely I would encourage the union and the corporate to support the team.
“It’s a process and results don’t just come overnight like now we managed to win our last game.
“I would say keep supporting the team, develop the players and we can only get better,” Mutamangira said.