Mehluli Sibanda in Harare
Zimbabwe . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (14) 23
Morocco . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (16) 23
ZIMBABWE stumbled on their way to a draw in their opening Rugby Africa Gold Cup fixture against Morocco at the Machinery Exchange Rugby Stadium inside Harare Sports Club yesterday.
The Sables could have won the match right at the end, only for the usually dependable flyhalf Lenience Tambwera to miss a penalty goal. Zimbabwe’s number 10, together with Brendon Mandivenga had their kicking boots letting them down on a day Morocco’s flyhalf, Hnidouch Chakir was on point with his kicks at goal.
Sables coach Peter de Villiers, in his first international game in charge since he was appointed in February attributed his team’s failure to win to not being able to grab the points scoring opportunities which came their way. He was however, optimistic of better fortunes in the remaining matches.
“When you come you don’t come to any game to lose it, the chances that you do get I think in any international game I don’t care what level you playing you, don’t take it they will punish you, but we are all alive and when you are alive there is hope,’’ De Villiers said.
The South African had promised a fast paced game but the Sables hardly ever got an opportunity to show off their wheels as they were bullied by the big Moroccan forwards. Zimbabwe conceded a number of penalties at breakdown from where the Moroccans were able to get the most out of with Chakir kicking for three points.
“We didn’t get it fast second phase ball to run with, there was a lot of great confrontations on the ground, the legality of it doesn’t have a discussion here but slowed the ball a bit down we couldn’t do it. There were patches that we really controlled it and then lost the ball by bad passing so again a game of missed chances,’’ he said.
He is convinced that the Sables are still in with a chance to qualify for the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan. They are still to play against Kenya, Tunisia, Namibia and Uganda with only one of those matches, against the Namibians in Bulawayo on 4 August at home while the rest are away.
“There is a lot of positives, we are not down and out but we are not very happy for not taking our chances,’’ De Villiers said.
Nassik put Morocco in front with a penalty goal before outstanding fullback Shingirai Katsvere scored the first of his first tries on debut, which was converted by Tambwera. Zimbabwe had the lead, Katsvere going over from a scrum, Tambwera’s conversion making it 14-3 to Zimbabwe.
Scrumhalf Ismail Nassik scored the first try for Morocco after a lovely build up, with Chakir adding the extra two points with a successful conversion. Chakir soon reduced the deficit with a penalty goal which saw the Moroccans trail by one point.
Morocco had the lead at the break, lock Fortune Chipendu pinned for collapsing a maul, Chakir earning the three points for the North Africans with a penalty goal which first bounced off posts before sailing in.
Tambwera wasted two penalty goal attempts early into the second half and was fortunate that his opposite number Chakir also fluffed his effort.
Zimbabwe went ahead halfway into the second half, Tambwera kicking in a penalty goal to put the Sables 20-16 in front. This was after Morocco were nailed for diving over in a ruck.
Fullback Jaoudat Souheyl profited from Zimbabwe losing the ball deep into their own 22 metre line to score the second try for Morocco under the posts. Chakir booted in the conversion to make it 23-20 to Morocco.
Tambwera levelled the scores with his third penalty goal to set up an exciting last few minutes during which the Sables had better opportunities of winning.
Mandivenga missed a long range penalty after Morocco had been pinned for pulling down in the scrum. Tambwera also had a chance to win it for the Sables from a closer range but he too failed to boot in a penalty goal.
Zimbabwe’s next assignment is away against Kenya on 30 June before they travel to Tunisia for a date against the North Africans on 7 July. The Sables face Namibia at Hartsfield Rugby Ground in Bulawayo on 4 August prior to rounding up their campaign away against Uganda on 18 August.
Winners of the Rugby Africa Cup will automatically qualify for the 2019 Rugby World Cup while the team in second place also has an opportunity to make it to Japan via the Repechage tournament where they will play against runners up from other continents.