Mehluli Sibanda Sports Reporter
SOME good news have come Zimbabwean rugby’s way with the fifteens national team still with an opportunity to qualify for the 2019 World Cup in Japan after Rugby Africa further altered the qualifying process. According to information obtained from a source at Zimbabwe Rugby Union, Rugby Africa sent in communication last week to the effect that the Sables, who were supposed to be demoted from the elite Africa Cup Division 1A to 1B, will not be relegated.

Instead, Zimbabwe remains in the now expanded 1A together with Uganda, Kenya and Namibia. The four countries are joined by Tunisia and Senegal, who clash in the 1B final on November 16.

Normally, Zimbabwe would have gone down to 1B with the winner of the contest 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 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, they will travel to Namibia, Kenya and Uganda then be at home against Tunisia and Senegal.

Last month, Rugby Africa sent in communication that Zimbabwe have a chance to redeem themselves with the Africa Cup 1B being played in January and February next year with the winner going up to 1A.

ZRU sought clarity and that is when they were 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, South beat North 15-12 at Hartsfield Rugby Ground at the weekend in a hard fought contest that was used to give Sables coach Mandenge an opportunity to have a look at the locally-based players.

Gilbert Nyamutsamba, the national sevens team coach, was in charge of the side from the southern part of the country while Daniel Hondo, the man he recently replaced as Cheetahs mentor, was responsible for the team from the North.

The match was attended by Mandenge, who was scouting for locally based 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 of the players who have played for the Sables before who took part in Saturday’s match were Constantine Dhina, Lenience Tambwera, Stephan Hunduza, Lucky Sithole, Brian Makamure, Irvine Nduwa, Gardner Nechironga and Lloyd Machanjaire.

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