BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
Zimbabwe…… (7) 10
Namibia……… (5) 41
THE Sables were handed a timely reality check by their biggest rivals Namibia ahead of next year’s Rugby World Cup qualifiers after falling apart in the second half of the World Rugby Stellenbosch Challenge final at the Markotter Stadium in South Africa yesterday.
Zimbabwe went into the match seeking to end a 20 year winless streak against their biggest rivals and appeared to have given themselves a very good chance after weathering the early storm before surging into a slender 7-5 lead at the break.
However Namibia went on the rampage in the second half, outscoring Zimbabwe 36-3, as they overturned a two-point deficit at halftime to completely shut the Sables out of the match.
The visitors ran in seven tries in total, with six tries coming in the second half, while the hosts were only able to answer with a single try in the first half, through blind side flank Biselele Tshamala.
As was expected Namibia made the stronger start pinning Zimbabwe in their own 22 for long periods before finally scoring the opening try in the 25th minute through left wing JC Greyling after some five work from the backline.
Zimbabwe, however, almost drew level four minutes later, but right wing Brandon Mudzekenyedzi lost the ball forward inside the Namibia try box before flyhalf Dudlee White-Sharpley saw his penalty coming off the post.
The Sables’ momentarily seized control of the match thereafter and were rewarded when Tshamala scored a try, which was converted by White Sharpley.
After finishing the first half strongly, the Sables would have fancied their chances of causing a huge upset against their higher ranked opponents.
With the exception of an early penalty by White-Sharpley which gave them a 10-5 lead they never came close against a stronger and better conditioned Namibian outfit, which completely dominated the second half.
The Welwitschias reclaimed the lead after the restart, when number eight Adrian Booysen went over for a converted try with his first touch after coming on as the floodgates opened.
Lock Max Katjijeko, replacement fullback Lorenzo Louis, flank Wian Conradie, Henrique Olivier and Booysen all went over for tries in the second half as the Sables wilted.
Sables coach Brendan Dawson admitted that his team had been handed a reality check by the Namibians ahead of next year’s World Cup qualifiers, where the Southern African rivals are expected to meet in the semis.
“Obviously it was a game of two halves and in the first half we managed to stop them from playing. We got into them nicely and played our game the way we wanted to play. Obviously the wheels came off us a bit from underneath in the second half. We’ve got a lot of work to do and once we get all our players to continuously play together we will get better,” he said.
The Sables will now turn their attention to the 2022 Rugby Africa Cup to be played in July in France, where qualification will be on offer for the Rugby World Cup the following year.