Hard lesson for Young Sables

HARARE - Sometimes defeat, painful as it is, can be a blessing in disguise.

The Zimbabwe Under-19 rugby side’s 44-23 defeat to Namibia in the deciding match of the Confederation of African Rugby (CAR) Under-19 Championships on Saturday, which effectively handed the Namibians the African title and a place at next year’s Junior World Rugby Trophy in Chile, was an eye-opener which will save Zimbabwe further embarrassment.

The writing was on the wall for the Young Sables from the onset when they struggled to beat minnows Kenya 13-10, proving that winning the title for a fourth consecutive time was going to be an uphill task.

Despite dominating the continent from 2009 to 2011, Zimbabwe’s results at the Junior World Rugby Trophy (JWRT) showed little signs of improvement.

The Young Sables only managed to register two wins in all three editions of their JWRT participation between 2009 and 2011.

At the JWRT, a second tier world rugby youth championship, the Young Sables have either finished seventh or last in the eight-team event, which is a big worry.

It seems the Young Sables were getting comfortable with the small screen, being crowned African champions, but not stepping up at the big stage.

Former Young Sables flyhalf and current Zimbabwe senior international, Tichafara Makwanya, who captained the youth side at the 2007 World Junior Championship in Ireland, perhaps put the young side’s predicament into perspective.

“Despite qualifying for the JWRT three times in a row, we have failed to progress as a nation. We have kept failing on the same hurdle and that complacency has finally caught up with us,” says the Old Hararians skipper.

On Saturday, Zimbabwe got it tactically wrong as they wanted to take on the Namibians physically, which was a case of David and Goliath as the Namibian pack was much bigger than theirs.

Moreover, Zimbabwe’s forwards failed to retain possession at contact, gifting the Namibians possession at every turn.

Scrumhalf Ian Surtees was too slow at recycling the ball and was pinned down all afternoon by the Namibian forwards, depriving his backline of clean ball.

Surprisingly, coach Brighton Chivandire decided to leave Surtees on the pitch for the better part of the match despite his obvious shortcomings.

Only deep into second half when the off colour Surtees was injured and in came Sharks Academy scrumhalf Robert Sergeant did Zimbabwe come out of their shell.

Sergeant showed awareness as he reacted faster and recycled the ball quicker. Suddenly, the backline sprung into life.

The introduction of fullback Tinashe Toriro also deep into second half, revitalised backs as he was involved in all three tries scored by the Young Sables.

It, however, was a case of too little too late as the Namibians had inflicted way too much damage.

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