Next Sunday, we will launch the official opening of our second division rugby fifteens competition, the Rugby Africa Silver Cup, featuring six teams eager to win and earn their place at the Rugby Africa Gold Cup
But how will the winner be decided? The first thing to know is that a total of six qualification pool matches will be played from the 8th to the 14th July 2018: one qualification pool for the North and one for the South. The North pool matches will be played in Toulouse, France, between the delegations from Algeria, Ivory Coast and Senegal; while the South pool matches will be held in Mufulira, Zambia, where teams from Zambia, Botswana and Madagascar will compete for a place in the final.
Hence, we won’t know the ultimate winner of the tournament and therefore the participants in the Rugby Africa Gold Cup 2019 until August 25th. The location of the final will be decided once the group matches are finished and will depend on the ranking.
The six teams in the running are making their final preparations and their coaches shared their thoughts with us in the runup to the tournament kickoff.
The Ivory Coast returns in force after their narrow defeat against Morocco last year, determined to clinch their place at the Gold Cup. The Ivorian coach, Edgar Babou, had this to say: “As this Silver Cup tournament approaches, we are in the final weeks of preparation for the individual players and the team is sure to follow. Our players are keen. The standard in this tournament will be very high. We are anticipating intense and serious exchanges. Our commitment is unwavering and we are ready for the challenge. The geographical location this year is a double-edged sword for us. As we are far from Africa, we hope that the large Ivorian community living in France, as well as former internationals, will turn out to support us and give us a boost.”
Another challenger in the competition, the Algerian delegation is certainly not an opponent to be taken lightly “We are very happy to be in Silver Cup with our Senegalese and Ivorian brothers. The North pool is a tougher one than the South pool in my opinion so I think the winner of our pool will be the outright winner of the Silver Cup. It’s up to us Algerians to play our game right. Senegal, as a team, is accustomed to this kind of competition, they have a lot of experience and Ivory Coast was a hair’s breadth away from qualifying for the Gold Cup last year. This is our second fifteens competition, we are making slow but sure progress and I am confident that, no matter what happens, we will come out of this tournament a better team,”Sofian Ben Hassen, President of the Algerian Rugby Federation, told us.
The Botswana Vultures prepared in South Africa and they are impatient for the start of the tournament “We had a preparatory match in South Africa recently, where we were part of their June 16 Day of the African Child Celebrations. The coaches had an opportunity to try out new combinations and new players as they try to blood new talent with the experienced campaigners. We look forward to good top-class rugby and competition, and well-organized tournament. We know well that, Zambia has been a good host in the past” Lesedi Keekae, current president of Botswana Rugby Union, shared.
As the host team, the challenge is all the more important for Zambia, “The team has had a roller coaster ride without much luck in the Silver Cup having first played there in 2015, relegated back to Bronze in 2016, qualified in 2017. In early June, the team had a test game against Zimbabwe which gave the technical bench time to gauge their player’s readiness for the big game. To ensure sustainability in line with team preps, the league this weekend will have the Mopani 15s National Rugby Tournament where coaches will have one final assessment of players before the Silver Cup games. Our biggest expectation is to stay in the Silver category and later to advance to the Gold Cup. To this effect, we call upon all stakeholders to rally behind the team from kick off to the last whistle and ensure there is no lack of morale” the communications director of the Zambian federation, Tom Chaloba, stated.
The Zambian federation is glad to host this rugby fifteens event as host federation, and they are more than up for the challenge “I would first of all like to thank the Zambian federation for hosting the South part of the tournament. They have worked perfectly with Rugby Africa to ensure a highly professional tournament.” acknowledged Abdelaziz Bougja, President of Rugby Africa.
The president of the African confederation highlighted: “We are aware that the format of the tournament is different from last year, and that the choice of venue for the games of the North pool has caused our African supporters to ask questions. We always give preference to matches on African soil, but this year, with no country volunteering to organise the event and given that many players from these three national teams go on to progress their careers in France, we turned to our partner, the French Rugby Federation. I’d like to thank the President of the FFR and the Occitania league for welcoming us to the land of rugby. We are fully convinced that the local organizing team is doing an excellent job, and that the Ivorian, Algerian and Senegalese communities of France will be delighted to attend these international meetings “.
There will be real-time commentary on all the matches of the Rugby Africa Silver Cup on our Facebook and Twitter pages. From July 8th to 14th, the Rugby Africa Silver Cup will offer a magnificent spectacle flying the many colours of Africa.
Distributed by APO Group on behalf of Rugby Africa.