The last Sables to play in the World Cup

HARARE - If Zimbabwe’s dream of qualifying for the 2015 World Cup is fulfilled, the Sables will be returning to the most prestigious tournament in world rugby for the first time in 24 years.

The Sables last played in the World Cup back in 1991, co-hosted by Britain and France.

Of the 16 countries taking part in the World Cup, Zimbabwe was easily the smallest rugby-playing nation in terms of the number of clubs and players participating in the game. At the time, Zimbabwe had 50 active clubs and a nationwide player pool of 2000.

Captained by Gweru-born fullback Brian Currin, the 26-man squad lost all three pool games to Ireland, Scotland and Japan.

The results were disappointing for the Zimbabweans, although they could look back on aspects of the tournament with pride.  

This was certainly the case in the opening match against Ireland. Initially, Zimbabwe appeared to be overawed in front of 40 000 at Lansdowne Road and were quickly down by 21 points.

However, they fought back bravely by playing positive, open rugby and an attractive game took place. A spectacular try by flank Brendan Dawson brought Lansdowne on its feet whilst Willie Schutz also crossed the line in his side’s 11-55 defeat.

At Murrayfield, the Zimbabweans gave a courageous performance in the first half of their match against Scotland.

The sides were evenly-matched for some time with the lighter nut mobile Zimbabwean pack creating problems for the home team.

After Scottish wing Iwan Tikolo had opened the scoring the a converted try in the fourth minute, the Zimbabweans equalised when Adrian Garvey went over the posts.

Brian Currin converted (6-6) but Zimbabwe then suffered from two abortive penalty attempts, whilst Peter Dods put over for the Scots (6-9). Another Scottish try by Derek Turnbull was countered by a great effort from the Zimbabweans.

Wing David Walters kicked ahead, collected the ball and passed to centre Richard Tismba.

The later set flank Honeywell Nguruve, who in turn serviced Adrian Garvey for the powerful Zimbabwean front-row forward to crash over under the posts for his second try. Currin converted (12-15).

Garvey was forced to leave the field not long afterwards with an ankle injury and Scotland scored again to be up 21-12 at the break.

In the second half the greater physical strength of the Scots told and they ended up winning by an emphatic 51-12 margin. The Zimbabweans had, nevertheless, played some enterprising rugby and there was room for optimism about their chances against Japan, a side that Scotland had beaten 47-9.

The comprehensive 52-8 thrashing at the hands of the Japanese at Belfast was undoubtedly an unexpected and bitter blow for the Zimbabweans.

Described as being “slugging and one-paced”, the Zimbabwean players lacked an urgency in their game, although they were let down by their poor form of their goal-kickers.

In contrast, the Japanese, shorter and lighter overall than the Zimbabweans, played with verve and skill, Their left wing, Yoshihito Yoshida, had a magnificent game weaving his way through the defence at great pace to score two tries and establish himself as one of the outstanding players of the tournament. – Zimbabwe Rugby Centenary.

*Brendan Dawson is the current Zimbabwe national team coach.

*Four black players, Richard Chimbima, Ellimon ‘Bedford’ Chimbima, Honeywell Nguruve and Milton Nyala, were part of the 26-man squad coached by Brian Murphy and Ian Buchanan.

*Richard Tsimba (now late) also played at the previous World Cup for Zimbabwe in 1987 as the only black player in the whole tournament.

He was last year inducted into the IRB Hall of Fame alongside his brother Kennedy.

*Prop Adrian Garvey would become the only player ever to play in two World Cups for two different teams. Four years later, the Bulawayo-born front row was a member of the Springboks side which won the World Cup on home soil in 1991.

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