Sables shift base

HARARE - Without a win in three Rugby Afrique Gold Cup matches, the Sables are hoping playing at Hartsfield Stadium in Bulawayo will inspire them to their first victory in the competition.

Zimbabwe take on old nemesis Namibia at the home of local rugby this coming Saturday in a potentially explosive encounter.

Peter de Villiers’ side started their 2018 Gold Cup campaign with a disappointing 23-23 home draw against Morocco at Harare Sports Club in June which severely dented the team’s chances of qualifying for the 2019 Rugby World Cup finals in Japan.

Only the top team in the division will join South Africa as the continent’s two representatives in Japan next year.

The team that will finish in second place in the Gold Cup will still have a chance of making it to the Rugby World Cup but via the Repecharge competition.

Following the draw with Morocco, the Sables were on the road as they lost 45-36 to Kenya in Nairobi at the end of June.

Zimbabwe then travelled to Tunisia where they lost 18-14 in Monastir in a match that will largely be remembered for the Sables’ accommodation struggles upon their arrival in the north African nation.

The poor start to the competition has left de Villiers’ side in fourth place on the six-team log with three points.

Namibia leads the standings with a massive 15 points followed by Kenya on 14 points while Tunisia are third with four.

Morocco are in fifth place with three points while Uganda anchor the standings without a point on the board yet.

Even if they win their two remaining matches against Namibia and Uganda later this month, the Sables are already out of contention for the Rugby World Cup spot.

Zimbabwe is now playing for pride and to ensure they maintain their place in the Gold Cup or else they will be relegated to the second tier Silver Cup competition for next season.

With the tie against the Welwitschias this coming weekend now being hosted in Bulawayo, the Sables’ players are very confident they will get a good result this time around.

Sables prop Lawrence Cleminson, a native of Bulawayo, is looking forward to lining up against the Welwitschias in front of his home fans.

“My first experience at Hartsfield was back in 2003 and then again in 2004 in the President’s Room where I was handed my Matabeleland Duikers colours,” Cleminson told Sables TV.

“The President’s Room is filled with all the memorabilia and all the Sables trophies from the past; this is the home of Zimbabwe rugby.

“The last time I played there was last year against Kenya; it was a wonderful experience playing in front of my home crowd.

“The people in Bulawayo love rugby and they are passionate; they come out in their number to support us when we play. I’m looking forward to this game and it’s important that we give back to people that have stood by us. We need a big game and we are looking forward to it.”

Zimbabwe flank Lucky Sithole has fond memories at Hartsfield dating back to his school days and hopes it will motivate then to beat Namibia. 

“This is the home of Zimbabwe rugby and it will be good for us to go and play there. We need to bring that culture back where people in Bulawayo know that Zimbabwe rugby is still alive,” Sithole said.

“I have got quite a number of memories from there from my school days and the Under-19 trials. The biggest memory for me would be making it in the Zim Under-21 back in 2006.”

Irvine Nduwa was part of the Milton High squad that famously beat Christian Brothers College in 2010 at Hartsfield.

The Germany-based loose-head prop is hoping that experience will spur him in on in the clash against the Welwitschias.   

“I’m from Bulawayo and I’m looking forward to playing this game in my home ground where I have got a lot of memories,” Nduwa said.

“I remember in 2010, that’s when I was still in school at Milton High and we beat CBC for the first time and we were playing at Hartsfield.

“That’s one of the greatest achievement we got at that ground.

Sables hooker Matthew Mandioma said: “Obviously, coming through the ranks in the schools’ rugby system, I know there is a lot of heritage and culture behind Hartsfield Stadium; that’s the home of Zimbabwe rugby.

“I know of the rugby community in Bulawayo and how it’s full of passion and it’s a completely different vibe from Harare so I’m looking forward to experience that.

Hopefully, as the team, we can pull in one direction and give them something to cheer for.”

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