Zimbabwe Sables will look to exorcise their demons when they face arch nemesis Namibia on Saturday the 15th of July at the Hage Geingob Rugby Stadium in Windhoek.
Zimbabwe, who were Africa’s sole representatives at the 1987 and 1991 Rugby World Cups, have found it tough to return to the prestigious tournament with Namibia attending all of them from 1999.
They have constantly stood in the Sables’ way and victories have been few and far in between for respective Zimbabwean sides down to age group level.
In 2014, they came within a hair’s breadth of qualification to the tournament in England, only to excruciatingly fall short by way of points difference. What hurt the Sables even more is the fact that they allowed Namibia to come back from behind to sneak 24-21.
Sables Head Coach, Cyprian Mandenge and his management will be hoping that their charges can get a result on Saturday one that will stem the tidal wave of heartbreaks caused by the ‘Aulde Enemy’.
He has recalled a few players who were not available for their season opener away to Senegal two weeks ago.
Chicago Lions flanker Andrew Rose, veteran Old Georgians utility backrow Jacques Leitaio, UWC’s Njabulo Ndlovu and Old Georgian’s frontranker David Makanda come in to shore things up in the forwards while the backline only sees two additions in centres Gavin Nyahwata and hard hitting Daniel Capsopoulos.
Namibia are a well oiled machine that will be quietly confident of continuing their run of dominant results over the Sables.
Phil Davies has evolved their outlook from an attritional mindset to one of shifting the point of attack to create displacements in the defensive set up. Their forwards are spread across the pitch in four pods that maintain the width of their attack and allow them the freedom to attack where the defence appears to be at its weakest and thinnest.
Backrower Johan Kitshoff has run his opponents ragged out on the periphery with seven tries from two tests played this season and will be looking forward to yet another dominant performance against the former African champions.
Key to Namibia’s success has been their mastery of the set-piece. They are solid at the scrum, intimidating at the lineout and clinical at the kick restart. They have the luxury even of
deciding where and when to contest possession. In doing so, they are pretty cock-sure of getting the turnover and making good on the return with interest.
Another plus for the defending champions is their ability to shift rapidly from defence and into attack, with a lethal backline able to exploit gaps on the counter and run in tries. This means that no opponent may ever really feel they have the guns to keep the marauding Namibians away from their own try line.
The Sables would do well to match the Namibians’ intensity and rhythm from the onset.
The Namibian backline sits deep and like to run the ball through the hands, with runners looking for defenders who present the inside shoulder. To counter this, the Sables will need to maintain high line speed to shut down the spaces and hit the man as he receives the ball.
The last time this Namibian side faced teams capable of doing this was at the Nations Cup tournament, where they lost 31-10 to Russia and 15-13 to Spain.
Should Namibia win on Saturday, they would stand a very good chance of taking their fourth African Rugby championship in succession with just matches against Uganda and Kenya to go.
Kick off is at 1700 CAT. Sables 23 :
1.Denford Mutamangira ©, 2.Tolerance Zishe 3.Lawrence Cleminson, 4.Brian Nyaude, 5. Fortunate Chipendu, 6.Jacques Leitao, 7.Connor Pritchard, 8.Njabulo Ndlovu, 9.Hilton Mudariki, 10.Tichafara Makwanya, 11.Stephan Hunduza, , 12.Ngoni Chibuwe, 13.Daniel Capsopoulos, 14.Takudzwa Kumadiro 15.Tadius Dzandiwanzira,
Replacements: 16.Graham Cochrane, 17.Irvine Nduwa, 18.David Makanda, 19.Andrew Rose, 20.Takudzwa Mandiwanza, 21.Scotty Jones, 22.Gavin Nyawata, 23.Tinashe Gwisai
Credit : Kyros Sports