still be a difficult assignment despite the demotion of highly ranked Namibia and Morocco.
Namibia are ranked 20th in the world and top among the teams that play the Africa Cup while Morocco are seeded as 26th in the world and third best in Africa.
The two countries were demoted from the elite group of African rugby known as Group 1A at the weekend after they failed to travel to Kenya for the Africa Cup tournament.
Four teams were expected to take part in the tournament but the withdrawal of Namibia and Morocco left hosts and newly crowned African champions Kenya and Tunisia to fight for the title.
With Morocco and Namibia relegated to Group 1B, this means Victoria Cup teams will next year dominate the Africa Cup tournament with Zimbabwe and Uganda joining the elite group.
Zimbabwe gained promotion into the elite group after winning the 1B tournament while Uganda will be coming in as the second team to even up the numbers in the pool.
With the two highest ranked African countries (outside South Africa) have been demoted to 1B of the Africa Cup tournament, Mandenge still feels there is going to be tough competition in the tournament.
“Of course we managed to beat both Uganda and Kenya home and away in both the Africa tournaments and the Victoria Cup but the demotion of Namibia and Morocco does not make it any easier.
“These sides are ranked above any team that takes part in the Africa Cup but Uganda and Kenya take this as an opportunity to get back at us having beaten them this year.
“With the Africa Cup at stake the competition will be equally stiff and I don’t think that it is going to get any easier for any of the teams.
“It was only fair that these teams were demoted and I also feel that there was no guarantee that Namibia were going to send a strong side for the tournament if they were to play,” said the Harare Sports Club coach.
Namibia cited the lack of funds as their reason for not taking part in the tournament that was hosted by Kenya at the weekend while Morocco said they were having administrative problems.
This left only Kenya and Tunisia to fight for the African title in what was supposed to be a four-team tournament, taking the glamour off the event.
But the CAR executive committee led by Moroccan Abdelaziz Bougja saw it fit to sanction the two sides for “robbing other teams of game time on the international scene”.
The tournament rules indicated that the team that finished bottom of the pool at after the tournament would be demoted to Group 1B and the relegation of the two sides had to be reached following an executive meeting in Kenya.
However, this was the first time in over three years that a team was punished for failing to attend a tournament with Namibia also going unpunished last year while prior to this Senegal refused to play Zimbabwe in Harare.
CAR chairman Bougja yesterday told The Herald that his board is lobbying that the International Rugby Board deducts ranking points from the teams that fail to travel for such assignments as the demotion and non fulfillment of the fixture did not have any effect on the rankings.
“At this stage it is the IRB way of doing business, we will try to work close with them to see how we can also downgrade the teams that have been withdrawing from tournaments,” he said.
But Mandenge believes that in as much as they are set to play in the Africa Cup next year, the Sables should put more focus on the World Cup qualification.
“We have to look at the World Cup as well and we need as much game time as possible. We have a lot of young players with talent and potential coming from the Under-20 but the only way we are able to have a fair assessment of them is during games.
“So this is when international friendlies come in and there would be nothing bad if we are to play Namibia and provincial sides from South Africa before engaging in these tournaments but again the resource and finance base would determine all this,” added Mandenge.