Sables World Cup Preps: Namibia Pull Out
By GOODWILL ZUNIDZA, Harare
Sables’ mouth-watering itinerary of preparations for the 2023 Rugby World Cup has been wrecked following the withdrawal of Namibia from a scheduled friendly international.
The Welwitchias were slotted as the second side Zimbabwe would play after the double header against Zambia and the eagerly-anticipated showdown was billed for 12 June at Harare Sports Club.
But, as the Zimbabwe Rugby Union is set to publicly announce anytime from now, the plan has gone up in smoke.
The 2-12 June Harare Sports Club series began with Brendan Dawson’s gallant troops posting a supreme 31-7 thumping of Zambia on Wednesday while awaiting their second and final duel with the same opponent on Saturday.
The bogey Welwitchias were up next, and were expected to provide the ideal competition the Sables need in their attempt to win the Africa Cup and secure their ticket to 2023.
However, ZimMorningPost can reveal that Namibia have pulled out despite initially confirming their interest in a written letter to the Zimbabwe Rugby Union (ZRU).
Efforts to secure official comment from Sifiso Made, the ZRU chief executive officer, hit a brick wall as the union’s hierarchy went on the evasive path.
The entire Sables’ itinerary was bankrolled by Nedbank after ZRU had secured a US$120 000 deal with the SA-headquartered bank.
Information gleaned from insiders suggest that the Namibia Rugby Union (NRU) cited the resurgent Covid-19 strain in their country as their reason for cancelling the tie.
“The game against Namibia will no longer proceed,” an official confided in ZimMorningPost, asking his name be withheld since the announcement was premature.
He said a recent spike in the numbers of new Coronavirus-linked infections had prompted Namibia to put all their travelling plans on hold.
“The union does not want to take any limelight off the current engagements with Zambia and will only let the cat out of the bag once the visitors depart,” he said.
The development will prove costly to both teams as it dampers their hopes of fine-tuning their squads before the World Cup qualifiers where they will noc less vie for Africa’s sole ticket besides South Africa’s automatic berth.
Contacted for comment, rugby analyst Rodney Nyakunengwa said he suspected other reasons for the Welwitchias’ about-turn.
“Look Namibia are not in good shape at the moment and they know Zimbabwe are their main Africa Cup competitors so they have decided against giving away their tactical secrets to the enemy,” Nyakunengwa claimed.
The Sables showed imperious form in the opening clash against Zambia with debutant back rowers Doug Juszczyk and Brendan Mudzekenyi combining for three of the team’s impressive five tries.
The stormy performance went a long way in convincing home supporters that they will be no pushovers when the Africa Cup which acts as the World Cup qualifiers, begins.