Zimbabwe’s senior rugby side, the Sables flexed the muscles to defeat Ivory Coast 38-11 (16-6 halftime) in a physical 2022 Rugby Africa Cup quarterfinal clash at the Stade Delort in Marseille, France on Friday night.
The Sables will now meet their fierce rivals Namibia in a potentially explosive semi-final on Wednesday after the Welwitschias defeated Burkina Faso 71-5 in an earlier quarterfinal at the same venue.
This year’s Africa Cup is also doubling up as the continent’s qualifying tournament for the 2023 World Cup.
After Ivory Coast stormed to an early lead through two penalties, the Sables simply had too much power, aggression and precision and went into the break with a comfortable 16-6 lead through tries by Matthew McNab and Shayne Makombe in addition to two penalties by skipper Hilton Mudariki.
The Sables continued their dominance with Makombe dotting over for his second try barely five minutes into the second half before Mudariki slotted home the conversion.
Ivory Coast however hit back with their only try of the match through Alexandre Pelati, although lack of discipline proved to be their biggest undoing.
Replacement number eight Aiden Burnett crashed over the whitewash soon after introduction in the 70th minute. However, he will miss Wednesday’s encounter against Namibia after being shown a red card for needlessly squaring up to the Ivorian players as tempers flared towards the end of the match.
With both teams finishing the match with 14 men, the Sables made sure to wrap up the match on a high when replacement hooker Matthew Mandioma scored from a driving maul.
Fullback Tapiwa Mafura, who was impressive in attack and defence slotted home the extras to seal an impressive win for the Sables.
The focus will now shift to the two other quarterfinals set for this Saturday with Kenya playing Uganda at 3pm while Senegal clash against Algeria at 6pm. The winner between Kenya and Uganda will take on Senegal or Algeria in the semis on Wednesday.
With one automatic qualification spot at RWC 2023 up for grabs in France, it means that the victorious team must win three matches in less than 10 days to take their place in Pool A as Africa 1 next year.
The losing finalist will still have a chance to secure their ticket to RWC 2023 through the Final Qualification Tournament.
Zimbabwe 38 (16) – Tries: Matthew McNab Shayne Makombe (2), Aiden Burnett, Matthew Mandioma. Penalty goals: Hilton Mudariki (3). Conversion: Tapiwa Mafura (1).
Ivory Coast 11 (6) – Try: Alexandre Pelati. Penalty goals: Ezer Kosse (2).