Sables' Sternest Test (allAfrica.com)

WHEN the Sables face the World Cup-bound Namibian national rugby team on Saturday they will be aware a lot more is at stake than the Confederation of African Rugby (CAR) Africa Cup title and silverware.

The two teams have emerged as the cream of the continent, South Africa excluded of course, having each beaten both Kenya and Tunisia who were also in Group 1A.

Tunisia has been relegated while Kenya’s single win helped them avoid demotion to Group 1B.

This has left the two Southern African nations, Zimbabwe and Namibia, to play out the winner-take-all match that has proved to be the cup final even though the tournament was held in a round-robin format this time.

The fixture timing is not particularly favourable to Zimbabwe who have to play away from home against a team probably at the peak of their powers, as they prepare for their trip to England where they will join the world’s best for the Rugby World Cup next month.

Had it not been for two late tries in the World Cup qualifiers by the Namibians in their match against Zimbabwe which the Sables lost 24-20, it probably would have been the Sables preparing to pack their bags for England.

The 46-13 demolition of Kenya by Namibia last weekend is probably a warning that Namibia will test the pick of its arsenal tomorrow.

Namibia are out to prove that they have progressed to another level and would like to minimise the expected damage against the likes of the All Blacks whom they are pooled with.

Yet for Zimbabwe the preparations have been far from ideal, as they are missing key players who are at their respective clubs as the match does not fall on the world calendar.

France-based Farayi Mudariki has not been released by his club and with Kevin Nqindi and Pieter Joubert also missing, the forwards are coach Cyprian Mandenge’s main concern, yet he is still confident of a solid performance.

Apart from twice-a-day training sessions in the last few days, the team will only meet up at the airport ahead of their flight today, less than 24 hours before kickoff in Windhoek.

The Zimbabwe Rugby Union is so broke it could not even afford a two-day camp, but it also proved so disorganized that it failed to arrange an earlier flight to Namibia which would have been paid for by the International Rugby Board for the team to at least camp in Namibia.

A flicker of hope has been provided by Mandenge who has promised that in the face of all adversity, his charges are ready to go to Namibia and be party poopers.

That of course will not be the only reason the Zimbabweans will give it their best shot.

For 14 years the Sables have failed to beat their opponents and tomorrow presents another opportunity to make up for the disappointment by retiring that awful record.

How Mandenge would have loved to line up his best for this important tie to enhance the Sables’ chances of bringing home silverware.

“I still have confidence in the guys that are available and I am confident if we play according to our plan we will win,” Mandenge told reporters this week.

Zimbabwe’s game plan is to try and starve the home side of possession.

Sables squad: Denford Mutamangira (captain), Royal Mwale, Brian Makamure, Fortune Chipendu, Biselele Tshamala, Andrew Rose, Lucky Sithole, Kingsley Lang, Charles Jiji, Tichafara Makwanya, Steven Hunduza, Rian O’Neill, Cleopas Makotose, Tafadzwa Chitokwindo, Tangai Nemadire, Tatenda Karuru, Tatenda Murwira, Sanele Sibanda, Kyle de Beer, Hilton Mudariki, Lenience Tambwera, Gerald Sibanda

Coach: Cyprian Mandenge, Assistant coach: Nsikelelo Sibanda, Team Manager: Sebastain Garikai.

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