Sables survive late onslaught to hold off spirited Zambia

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Zimbabwe held off a late fightback from Zambia to record a hard-fought 32-28 (half-time 24-6) victory at Prince Edward School on Saturday, in their first rugby union international match in almost two years.

The Sables were making a long-awaited return to international rugby having last played a Test match in July 2022, when they lost to Algeria during their forgettable run at the 2023 Rugby World Cup Qualifiers in France.

The tie against Zambia was also the first competitive match under new head coach Pieter Benade, who recently took over from Brendan Dawson.

The new-look Sables appeared on course for a dominant win through first half tries from hooker Liam Larkhan, number eight Aiden Burnett and centre Kudzai Mashawi while Tadius Dzandiwandira chipped in with two conversions and a penalty.

Zimbabwe also did well in defence to limit the Zambians to just two penalties as they comfortably led 24-6 at the break.

But Zambia, who scored second half tries through David Chimbukulu, Butemwe Koloko and lock Vincent Nhole in addition to Kaushiku’s two conversions and another penalty, produced a stirring fightback in Harare.

However  Tonderai Chiwambutsa’s try after the break and another second half penalty from Dzandiwandira proved decisive.

Zimbabwe were using the tie against Zambia to prepare for this year’s Rugby Africa Cup to be held in Uganda in July.

The Africa Cup will serve as the opening phase qualifying phase for the 2027 Rugby World Cup.

Meanwhile Saturday’s Test between Zimbabwe and Zambia brought the curtain down on the Mwana Group International Schools Rugby Festival.

The Sables’ victory also meant Zimbabwe completed a double over their neighbours after the Lady Sables edged their counterparts 19-17 in an earlier game at the same venue.

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