THE Zimbabwe senior rugby side, the Sables, would be seeking to end a four-match losing streak by finishing their campaign on a winning note against hosts, the United Arab Emirates, in their final match of the Emirates Airline Cup of Nations XVs Rugby tournament in Dubai today.
Report by Daniel Nhakaniso in Dubai, UAE
The match kicks off at 4pm Zimbabwean time at the 7he Sevens Stadium.
The Sables have found the going tough in their last four matches against higher ranked opponents; losing to Spain and Namibia last month, and recently against Hong Kong and Belgium.
In the two matches in Dubai, the youthful Sables showed promise, managing to take a halftime lead against Belgium before losing concentration in the second half, allowing their European opponents to eventually win.
The team would, however, have no excuse for not winning today against a UAE side that has been the whipping boys in the tournament so far following heavy defeats to Hong Kong and Belgium.
Furthermore, the UAE is a massive 65 places behind Zimbabwe on the International Rugby Board (IRB) world rankings, having only recently attained full IRB membership.
Against this backdrop, the Sables would be hard-pressed to win today’s encounter convincingly even though indications are that fringe first team players would be given a chance to play.
“Most of the players who haven’t had a chance to play so far in this tournament will definitely get their chance,” said assistant coach Cyprian Mandenge. “The fact that we have taken them on tour means they are good enough and they will have a chance to prove themselves. Whatever team goes on the field we will expect nothing less than a win because we believe we are a better side than UAE. We will obviously give them respect like any other opponents that we play but we will go for a victory,” he said.
Mandenge acknowledged lack of experience has been the team’s biggest letdown on this tour after the team had to do without several senior players who had other commitments with the Zimbabwe Sevens team.
“I think in both matches that we lost it’s clear lack of experience has been our biggest challenge. Hopefully the guys are learning from this because even in Namibia, it was the same story. We have lacked the killer instinct to finish off matches from winning positions,” said Mandenge.