By Petros Kausiyo
Zimbabwe were left with an even tougher task to gun for nothing short of victory against Uganda after the Cranes sealed their place in the Rugby Africa Gold Cup when defeating Morocco in Kampala on Saturday.
Uganda proved too strong for Morocco, beating the Atlas Lions 49-29, to secure third place with an unassailable 10 points, which will guarantee that they will now finish behind either of leaders Namibia and second-placed Kenya.
The Cranes are Zimbabwe’s next opponents in the Sables final assignment of this year’s Gold Cup tournament in Kampala this weekend.
This year’s Gold Cup competition has also been serving as the African edition of the 2019 World Cup qualifiers.
Peter de Villiers and his winless Sables are expected to fly out to Kampala today for the encounter which they must now win at all costs to avoid demotion into the less fashionable Silver Group where they might have to contend with playing only three official Tests next year.
Uganda have recovered from a false start in which they lost twice to Namibia and Kenya and their latest win over Morocco made it two wins against North African opposition.
Sables captain, Denford Mutamangira, however, insisted that Uganda’s success over Morocco was not a major cause for them to worry. Mutamangira said his troops had been working hard and remain focussed on ending their campaign with a win and were not looking at how their opponents were performing in their assignments. “Uganda’s win against Tunisia doesn’t change anything, we just have to go there and try win win this game. We have looked at how they managed to score their tries and we have noticed that we have to ensure we don’t give the ball away,” Mutamangira said.
The Sables captain was also happy with the shift that his side had put during camp which they did not break after their 58-28 defeat by Namibia at Hartsfield on August 4.
“The preparations have been positive and encouraging. Apart from our workouts, we have managed to sit and analyse our games, analyse Uganda’s games as well and I think as a team we are on the same page. “We have worked on our misakes, especially the fact that we sometimes go to sleep when we are playing well. We have been trying to work on our consistency too. Decision-making is something that we have also been working on throughout the week,” Mutamangira said.
The 34-year old tight-head prop also revealed that they had noted some few errors in their defence which they had been working on.
“Our defence is quite good, it’s only that sometimes we react a little slower and we have been working on all that.”
Mutamangira also hailed the positive impact that the changes that were made to the Sables ahead of their game against Namibia made, citing as examples the different dimensions and competition which such players like Shayne Makombe, Tafadzwa Chitokwindo and Antipas Kamkwindo brought to the team.
As they head out to Uganda this afternoon, the Sables, will according to their captain, also look to build on the positives they picked from their last assignment against Namibia two weeks ago and ensure their East African adventure will yield the kind of fruits which their labour clearly deserves.
The Sables will also take some comfort in the fact that Kenya did them a huge favour by thumping Tunisia 67-0 in Kampala which meant that the Atlas Lions remained at the basement of the log table.
That Maghreb derby showdown, between a Tunisia side that only have their win over the Sables to show for their troubles, also has a huge impact on deciding the bottom three standings in the Gold Cup. While the Sables will be heading to Kampala to determine their Gold Cup fate, there is no doubting that from the Rugby Africa perspective, the highlight of the final day matches will be the massive group decider between Namibia and Kenya in Windhoek.
An unlikely victory by the Kenyans at the Hage Geingob stadium could see them snatching the ticket to World Cup in Japan. Kenya ran in 11 tries and six conversions against the Tunisians with Test debutant and Kenya Sevens forward Willy Ambaka being joined by captain Davies Chenge, Andrew Chogo, Jacob Ojee, Elkeans Musonye, Darwin Mukidza, Martin Owilah, Peter Karia, Mohammed Omolo and Tony Onyango in the scoresheet.
The five points from the win moved the Simbas to 17 points and three behind leaders Namibia ahead of their group decider.