BY DANIEL NHAKANISO ZIMBABWE international rugby star Tapiwa Mafura’s stellar season continued after his Pumas side shocked the South African rugby fraternity when they claimed a last-gasp 38-35 win over the Cheetahs in their Currie Cup semi-final in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
Mafura, who has been in superb form for the Pumas this season started the crucial encounter on the right-wing. And despite not being amongst the try-scorers he put in yet another accomplished performance the Pumas outscored the Cheetahs by six tries to four to put themselves in a position to secure a maiden Currie Cup title.
The Pumas were also down 17-32 with 20 minutes left on the clock before they staged their fightback to advance to the Currie Cup final for the first time in their history.
The Mpumalanga-based team’s progression in South Africa’s premier domestic rugby competition means Mafura will now have to wait longer before joining his Sables teammates for the Rugby World Cup qualifiers in France.
Instead, he will be part of the Pumas squad which will head to Kimberley to face Griquas in next weekend’s Currie Cup final.
Griquas reached their first Currie Cup final since 1970 with a 30-19 upset of the Bulls in Pretoria on Friday night.
The 26-year-old Sables star will hope to lead the Pumas to their maiden Currie Cup title next weekend before helping the Sables to qualify for the 2023 Rugby World Cup during the qualifiers which get underway in France on July 1.
The lighting fast outside back is expected to link up with his Sables teammates in France soon after next Saturday’s Currie Cup final.
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Meanwhile, the Sables have begun their preparations for their high-profile Test match against the Netherlands in Amsterdam on Saturday.
Team manager Jason Maritz told StadardSport that the team held their first training session in Amsterdam yesterday.
The squad left for France early last week after their final Currie Cup First Division match against Valke in Cape Town.
“We had a couple of days off in Paris and the boys had a nice time off doing some sightseeing which was great.
“We arrived in the Netherlands yesterday (on Friday) and we’ve had a training session today to kickstart our training week. The guys are eager to get going, the weather is quite warm so it has been easier for the guys to acclimatise and everyone is looking forward to showing what four years in the making will bring us,” Maritz said.
The Sables’ match against Netherlands will be played at the National Rugby Centre Amsterdam in the Dutch capital on Saturday, exactly a week before they begin their Rugby Africa Cup 2022 campaign in France.
Zimbabwe will face Ivory Coast at the Stade Maurice-David in Aix-en-Provence, on July 2 in the quarterfinals of this year’s Rugby Africa Cup, which will also serve as the final round of the Rugby World Cup 2023 qualifying for African countries.
The winners of the eight-team knockout competition will represent Africa in the RWC 2023 in France 14 months later.
Whoever finishes as runners-up following the much-anticipated Rugby Africa Cup 2022 final on 10 July will still have a chance of qualifying for RWC 2023 through the Final Qualification Tournament.