SABLES STILL OPTIMISTIC THE BALL IS MINE . . . Zimbabwe centre Kudzai Mashawi has the ball in his possession as his teammates and the Moroccan forwards close in for a ruck at the Machinery Exchange Rugby Stadium on Saturday. — (Picture by Tariro Kamangira)

Petros Kausiyo Deputy Sports Editor
DESPITE Zimbabwe stuttering to a home draw against Morocco, Sables captain Denford Mutamangira insists they will not drop their heads and will instead step up their act in the remainder of their Rugby Africa Gold Cup assignments.

The Sables could not get their bid for a place at the 2019 World Cup off to a flying start after being restricted to a came from behind 23-23 draw by the North Africans.

On a sunny afternoon at the Machinery Exchange Rugby stadium at Harare Sports Club and before a carnival atmosphere that underlined the revival story that has been taking place under the new Zimbabwe Rugby Union administration, the onus to provide the icing on the cake fell to Peter De Villiers’ men.

It was also the former Springboks coach’s first competitive game in charge of the Sables and expectations were high in the build-up to this showdown.

Rarely had the Sports Club been packed for a Sables match in recent years but on Saturday the spectators came in their numbers and many had to “park and walk’’ to the match venue with vehicles being parked well beyond the Royal Harare golf course.

In the end that huge and appreciative crowd had to contend with seeing their flagship rugby team managing only a draw in their opening group game.

The Sables had to actually battle long and hard to avoid what would have been an embarrassing loss after they paid dearly of conceding two soft second half tries, which then forced Mutamangira and his troops to labour for a share of the spoils.

“We would have wanted to get maximum points but it didn’t happen and we now have to get those maximum points in the remaining games.

“I feel we were not patient and we rushed our things when we needed to be composed. There are a few areas that we need to work hard on,’’ Mutamangira said. The 34-year-old prop said they had also discussed the need to avoid mistakes, but still found themselves conceding penalties they could have done without.

“We made some mistakes and conceded penalties even though we spoke about this and it is now up to the players to improve from this’’.

The impact of the tough task that lies ahead of the Sables was put into perspective later on that Saturday afternoon when Namibia crashed Uganda’s Cranes 55-6 at the Hage Geingob stadium in Windhoek.

According to reports from Windhoek, the Welwitschias who have won the Rugby Africa Gold Cup for four times in a row only took seven minutes for them to put points on the scoreboard after brilliant play from the right wing to the left found right flanker Janco Venter who scored their opening try and Cliven Loubser made no mistake from the spot.

Namibia then took a comfortable 26-3 lead at the break.

In the second half it was still a one-way affair as the Namibians ran in five more tries compared to their opponents who only scored a penalty.

That victory ensured Namibia took early grip on the group standings.

Mutamangira, however, said they would not be intimidated by the result from Windhoek or elsewhere.

“Because we failed to beat Morocco doesn’t mean we cannot beat any other teams in the group.

The other teams play a different game to Morocco’s so we will still take each game as it comes’’.

The North Africans’ huge size also seemed to have surprised the Sables with their aggressive play, turning over possession on numerous occasions and forcing the hosts into making errors.

Sables flanker Connor Pritchard also reckoned that his side had been caught by surprise after underrating their opponents.

“I think it was a good performance by both teams. We underestimated Morocco but towards the end we came back fighting.

“We have to work on our defence and we should have stuck to the game that we had been playing throughout at training but we didn’t execute that today,’’ Pritchard said.

Morocco captain, Arabat Hocine said: “We appreciate the ambiance the crowd brought today. We’ve only been able to train as a team for a week and playing Zimbabwe has given us a picture of how competitive our opponents are.” His coach Pierre Chadebech also added that “Zimbabwe was difficult to beat. We to need to work on retaining the ball when going into contact and play a faster game. We will work on our mistakes in preparation for our game against Kenya.”

The Sables will be inactive next Saturday but the Moroccans will be back in action as they host Kenya in Casablanca and Namibia will receive Tunisia in Windhoek.

De Villliers’ next assignment is a cagey trip away to Kenya in Nairobi on July 30.

You Might Also Like