BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
The ZIMBABWE Rugby Union (ZRU) has expressed satisfaction with the preparations for the Sables’ upcoming friendly matches against Zambia and Namibia ahead of the Rugby Africa Cup in July, as the local rugby governing body seeks to lay the foundation for the team’s qualification for the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France.
ZRU will kick off a busy winter early next month when the country hosts neighbours Zambia for two friendly matches which will involve the men’s senior national team (the Sables), the women’s 15s national team and the national men’s under-20 team.
The matches will take place on June 2 and 5 at Harare Sports Club with the women’s and Young Sables’ matches acting as curtain raisers to the Sables, who are using the matches to prepare for the Africa Cup matches to be hosted by Tunisia in July.
After the visit by Zambia, the Sables will then clash with the Namibia’s Welwitschias at home and away on June 12 and 19 respectively.
Another preparatory match against a Blue Bulls Select team at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria in early July has been lined up, before the Sables depart for Tunisia for the Africa Cup on July 12.
ZRU president Aaron Jani told Standardsport that he is satisfied with the preparations for the matches thus far before revealing plans to livestream the home matches as they will be played behind closed doors.
“We are set for a busy winter with the Cheetahs set to compete in the Olympic Games répechage in Monaco while at home we are currently making the necessary preparations for the matches against Zambia, Namibia and possibly the Blue Bulls Select. All the preparations have so far gone well and we don’t anticipate any issues ahead of the matches,” Jani said.
“The teams are now in camp and for the Sables we are happy that most of our players who are playing outside the country are already in camp while a few are expected later on, but so far so good and the training camp has been going well.
Jani added: “The only disappointment is that the fans won’t be able to come and support the teams as the matches will be played behind closed doors due to Covid-19 protocols, but we are making arrangements so that the matches will be streamed online to ensure the fans follow the action.”
The ZRU boss revealed said he is pleased with the support his organisation has received from the Sports and Recreation Commission (SRC) who have already cleared the rugby body to host the upcoming matches in compliance with Covid-19 protocols.
“The SRC has been very supportive in as far as providing the necessary clearances is concerned. We received the initial clearance to host the matches about two weeks ago and also got another go-ahead a few days ago after the recent developments so everything is on course and we are looking forward to the upcoming matches,” he said.
After the preparatory matches, the Sables will play in a three-nation Rugby Africa Cup Pool D competition in Tunisia this July against the hosts and a third side yet to be decided courtesy of a prior play-off competition.
The Sables will face the Rugby Africa repechage winner on July 14 before taking on hosts Tunisia four days later.
The Rugby Africa Cup repechage is taking place in Burkina Faso from June 5-3 with the hosts battling it out with Burundi, Burkina Faso and Cameroon for the place in Pool D.