The Young Sables’ mission against Namibia on Saturday is about more than just winning the Africa Cup and qualifying for the Junior World Rugby Trophy, as the Under-19 rugby team is also burdened with repairing the local game’s battered image after the mauling of the seniors in Namibia recently.
The Sables suffered a humiliating 80-6 defeat to Namibia in their version of the same competition, with a combination of adverse factors contributing to the debacle.
The Young Sables have not suffered the same trials and tribulations that dogged the senior side; they camped and prepared well for the tournament.
After successfully negotiated their way past Kenya in the semifinals on Wednesday, their showdown with Namibia is likely to provide enthralling entertainment.
Coach Brendon Brider acknowledged that his team carries the heavy burden of restoring the country’s pride and expectations are high.
“Obviously this is a very important match for us for various reasons, chief among those is for us to get one over Namibia considering the disappointing defeat we suffered at senior level,” said Brider.
But he was quick to point out that the task would be a mammoth one, though it is one they can surmount on home soil.
“Having watched Namibia in the semis and with the way we played against Kenya, I think the final will be tough for both sides and it should be a very physical game. We will seek improvement in certain areas; what is important is for us to play to the best of our potential before we start worrying about what the Namibians can do.”
With Joshua Ganod missing three try conversions against Kenya, Zimbabwe will be looking to improve in that area as well as the execution of tackles and scrums in what should be an epic clash.
Captain Connor Pritchard is confident Zimbabwe can play better than they did against Kenya to pull off a result against Namibia.
A win against Nambia at this level has been elusive, but the current crop of Young Sables is relishing the prospect of breaking the losing streak.
“We didn’t play to our full potential against Kenya, but it’s good that we still won. We need to improve going into the match against Namibia and we have a point to prove,” said Pritchard.
“After watching them (Namibia) play against Uganda we were left with no doubt that we can compete or even beat them. The guys have been looking forward to this match and we go into the final with a lot of confidence; hopefully we can get the result that we need.”