The Sunday News
Mehluli Sibanda, Senior Sports Reporter
DESPITE approval having been granted by the Sports and Recreation Commission for the Zimbabwe senior men fifteens rugby team, the Sables to play against Portugal in a Test match Lisbon on 3 July, that match is no longer taking place after the Zimbabweans were denied visas to the European country.
Zimbabwe were looking to use the match against Portugal to fine tune for next month’s Rugby Africa Cup Pool D in Tunisia. From Portugal, the Sables were meant to travel straight to Tunisia.
Sables team manager, Jason Maritz said they got the bad news that visa applications for the team had been declined, with the Covid-19 situation in the Southwestern European country given as the reason for the Zimbabweans not allowed entry into Portugal. On Tuesday, the SRC said permission had been granted to Zimbabwe Rugby Union to send the Sables to Portugal and Tunisia.
“We were meant to play Portugal on 3 July in Lisbon. We had everything lined up, everything had been agreed with the Portuguese Rugby Federation and approval from the SRC but the we got communication from the Embassy of Portugal on Monday that our visas had been declined,’’ Maritz said.
With Portugal ranked 21 in the world and Zimbabwe in 35th place, Maritz feels it would have been a great opportunity for the Sables to showcase their prowess.
Maritz described the development as unfortunate but said all hope was not lost as they look to play Portugal on the end of year tour if that goes ahead.
“We will look to play them (Portugal) and other countries on the end of the year tour. They were really keen to have us over there.
“It’s unfortunate, its life, we must move on, we must make sure we qualify. We have to make the best of a tough situation,’’ he said.
With the Zimbabwe no longer heading out to Portugal, the Sables are now flying out to Tunisia on Friday where they will have a two-week camp in the North African country. Zimbabwe take on Burkina Faso on 13 July and then clash with Tunisia four days later. All the matches will be played at Stade Mustapha Ben Jannet in Monastir, a city 162km from Tunis.
If Zimbabwe win Pool D, they will most likely meet Madagascar in the quarterfinals and then Namibia in the last four with those matches to be played in July next year.
The Sables, who managed to play two friendly matches against Zambia in Harare early this month will now saw their preparations disturbed. Planned friendly matches against the Welwitschias of Namibia could not take place because of a rising number of Covid-19 cases in Namibia. The Sables also had to halt their training sessions following a ban on sporting activity in the country on 14 June.
Now that they have the green light to train, the players got back to fine tuning in a bio-bubble at Old Georgians Sports Club in Harare on Wednesday. A squad of 26 players is now in camp and these are the ones travelling to Tunisia.