SABLES coach Cyprian Mandenge says his charges can still win the fourth edition of the Cup of Nations currently underway in Hong Kong if they replicate their second half display during their 19-15 defeat to Russia in the tournament opener on Friday.
BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
Zimbabwe put up a spirited perfomance — albeit in a losing cause — as they narrowly lost 15-19 against the tournament’s defending champions, Russia, to snatch a valuable bonus point, which leaves them still in contention for the coveted title.
Russia, who are ranked 16 places higher on the global standings, stormed to a 19-6 half-time lead before the Sables, led by five converted penalties by flyhalf Lenience Tambwera, fought back after the break to almost rally to what would have been a memorable victory.
And after watching his charges going down 50-5 to the same team last year, Mandenge was pleased with his team’s brilliant turnaround and reckons that if they maintain the same form, they can win the round-robin four-nation tournament.
“We have a very young team and they fought very hard until the final whistle. We were just unfortunate to lose in the end. I am happy that we managed to get a bonus point from Friday’s narrow defeat to Russia, while at the same time restricting them from getting a bonus point,” he said.
“Now we need to win our next two games, hopefully with bonus points, which can see us going all the way and win this tournament. They won’t be easy games, but I believe we have the quality and we can go all the way and win this tournament.”
Mandenge, who was initially forced to resign by the Zimbabwe Rugby Union and subsequently reinstated after a dismal Africa Cup, will be desperate to finally end his team’s eight-match losing streak when his charges play Hong Kong on Tuesday.
The tournament hosts kicked off their campaign with a dominant 51-5 win over the tournament’s lowest ranked team, debutants Papua New Guinea, who the Sables play in their last match last Saturday.
Sables Squad for Hong Kong
Forwards: Denford Mutamangira (Captain), Brian Makamure, Lawrence Cleminson, Irvine Nduwa, Michael Passaportis, Witness Mandizha, Tapfuma Parirenyatwa, Lucky Sithole, Osborne Muhambi, Njabulo Ndlovu, Connor Pritchard, Andrew Rose, Biselele Tshamala, Simba Mandiona, Tolerance Zishe
Backs: Joshua Gando, Tichafara Makwanya, Lenience Tambwera, Stephan Hunduza, Tafadzwa Chitokwindo, Tadius Dzandiwandira, Riaan O’Neil, Kudzai Mashawi, Gavin Nyawata, Brad Ellse, Lungile Tshuma