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Sables Look East for Competition

THE Zimbabwe rugby team will test its strength against East African giants Kenya and Uganda in a new tri-nations tournament this year as authorities seek to revitalise the national fifteens team, once a continental powerhouse.

The league-formatted series between the three countries, in June and July, will be on a home-and-away basis.

The Sables have been on the mend in the last two years, beating southern African opposition with relative ease, with the exception of old foe Namibia, who once again edged them for a place in the IRB World Cup. New Zealand will host the next World Cup next year.

But to accurately evaluate their progress before even thinking about taking on the world as in the heyday of Zim rugby, the Sables must prove their mettle against Kenyan and Ugandan sides who have vastly improved over the years. Both teams are ranked above Zimbabwe in IRB rankings.

“It’s obviously an exciting development for the three countries,” Zimbabwe Rugby Union president Themba Sibanda told IndependentSport. “Why we decided to play Kenya and Uganda is because they are ranked above us according to the IRB. We felt maybe they would give us a good run for our money.”

Sibanda however said the two countries’ ranking above Zimbabwe does not mean they are better.

“It means they accumulate points. Look at us; when did we last play a Test match outside the Africa Cup (Southern Zone, which Zimbabwe won last year)? In 2008 we played two, a World Cup qualifier against Namibia and a friendly against Zambia. They are ranked higher because they’ve been more active than we’ve been. When we played in the Africa Cup in Botswana last year, we jumped from 55 in the world to 46 because we won all our matches and also beat Madagascar, who were ranked above us.”

Kenya are a core side on the IRB Sevens World Series where they constantly give the world’s leading nations bloody noses. But at the fuller game, it will be interesting how they fare against a Zimbabwe side determined to bring back the good old days.

As for Uganda, in the last five years or so they have matched the Zimbabweans in all aspects of the game when the two sides met in African Cup ties.

 

Enock Muchinjo

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