THE Zimbabwe rugby national team goes into next week’s World Cup qualifier against Ivory Coast in Abidjan comfortable in the knowledge that they have already secured a place in the next stage
of the qualifiers.
Zimbabwe is in Group A of round 1b with Ivory Coast and Senegal. The top team qualifies to Round 2 of the qualifiers, while the runner-up team goes into a home and away play-off against the second placed team in Group B, which has Kenya, Madagascar and Uganda.
That means the winner between Zimbabwe and Ivory Coast next week will sail through to round 2, having posted two wins. Both sides won their first matches against Senegal, who have now tumbled out of the competition.
Uganda, who came second in Group B, have already wrapped up the other play-off slot and awaits the loser between the Sables and the Ivorian Elephants. Group B winners, with a win over Uganda and draw with Madagascar, qualify direct to Round 2. Madagascar is out of contention after the Ugandans scraped their first international win in Antananarivo last weekend with a 14-18 conquest.
The International Rugby Board (IRB) has already seeded three teams in Round 2 of the qualifiers. Pool 1 of Round 2 already has Namibia and Tunisia. The winner of the Zimbabwe/ Ivory Coast tie will join them as the third team. The matches will be on a home and away basis. Pool 2 had Morocco seeded, and Kenya, who won Group B, has joined them. The third team will come from the winner of the first round play-offs.
In the final lap, Round 3, the winner of Pool 1 and Pool 2 in the Round 2 come at odds in a home and away final, with the victors qualifying direct to the World Cup in 2007 in France. The runner-up in the final can still qualify, that is if they successfully go through the Repechage Round play-off against the runner-up from Europe.
On the domestic scene, the chance to impress national team coach Chris Lampard ahead of next week’s trip to Ivory Coast will be in the players’ minds when defending national champions Old Hararians and rivals Harare Sports Club squares-off in Round 4of the northern region rugby league at Old Hararians tomorrow.
OH provides most of the locally based national team players, with stand-in captain Max Madziwa leading the pack. Other regular Sables players from OH are eightman Rocky Gurumani, pacey three-quarter Emmanuel Munyoro, scrumhalf Tich Chidongo, and front row forwards Shingi Chirimuuta and Clint Joseph.
Harare Sports Club was not represented against Senegal last month, but young utility three-quarter Tangai Nemadire and lock Jacques Leitao have been called up by Lampard to prepare for the Ivory Coast game.
Besides, OH will be going all out to avenge their 35-34 to defeat by Sports Club in the reverse fixture earlier in the season. Once again Sports Club will look to Nemadire’s deft side steps and ball handling to complete what will be a massive double over OH, but the Old Boys can also unleash their own backline weapon in Tonderai Mapunde, whose surprise turn of pace may be what the Sables want to overcome Ivory Coast