Namibia completes a clean sweep over Zimbabwe
By Timo Shihepo
WINDHOEK – Zimbabwe sport had a week to forget after their sojourn in Windhoek over the weekend for the Rugby Africa Gold Cup and the 2018 Africa Nations Championships (CHAN) qualifiers.
Beaming with confidence after beating Senegal in the Africa Gold Cup in the first round and winning the COSAFA Cup a week before, the Zimbabwean national teams hoped to carry the momentum in the continental competitions.
However, it was not to be, despite The Sables and Warriors putting gallant fights, they both narrowly lost out to their Namibian counterparts.
Sables, the Zimbabwean rugby team, narrowly lost 31-26 on Saturday, after coming close to ending a 16–year losing streak to the Welwitschias of Namibia after leading for most part of the game. Zimbabwe went into the break leading 20 -7. In the second half, Zimbabwe picked up where they left off with fly-half Tichafara Makwanya converting a penalty early on to increase the score 23-7.
The home side, however, staged a comeback midway second half with Darryl De la Harpe and Gino Wilson scoring tries to put the score 23-17. Vice-captain of the day, Eugiene Jantjies missed both conversions.
Zimbabwe’s Makwanya added a penalty shortly to increase their lead to 26-17. With time running out Namibia’s acting coach of the day Roger Thompson rolled the dice and threw in Johann Tromp and Cliven Loubster with the former scoring two tries and the latter converting both penalties with just four minutes remaining to put the Welwitschias in the lead for the first time (31-26).
Namibia’s captain, Rohan Kitshoff who had predicted a tough encounter, said Zimbabwe gave them a wakeup call.
“You see, I think this is the kind of match we needed just to be reminded that it won’t be easy going forward in this cup. We had easily beaten Tunisia and Senegal but it wasn’t easy out there today. Hats off to Zimbabwe, some of our players maybe thought it was going to be easy but it was really a tough game. This game should be a warning going forward.”
Zimbabwe’s head coach, Cyprian Mandenge rued the missed chance to beat the Welwitschias but said he was proud of his boys.
“I don’t know how we didn’t score the try that could have won us the game. We got the ball nicely over the line but we couldn’t just finish it.
“Otherwise the boys played well and I feel sorry for them because they gave their all.”
The Welwitschias maintained their place on top of the log standing of the Rugby Africa Gold Cup with 15 points from three matches while Zimbabwe remains fourth with four points from two games. Kenya and Uganda are second and third with six points each. Senegal and Tunisia complete the log at the bottom.
In round six of the six nations tournament, Namibia will play Uganda on July 29, while Zimbabwe will square off against Tunisia.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe’s national football team – the Warriors – have a chance to redeem themselves on Sunday in Harare, after losing 1-0 to the Brave Warriors of Namibia at Sam Nujoma last Sunday.
In a closely contested match Zimbabwe spurned two glorious chances in the first 14 minutes. Both efforts thwarted by Namibia’s goalkeeper Lodyt Kazapua.
The pace of the game slowed down close to halftime but the tempo picked up again early in the second half with Hendrick Somaeb scoring the only goal of the match on 47 minutes after a great solo run to place the ball into the top right corner to send the home crowd into raptures. Zimbabwe then turned on the screws to force an equaliser but they made their job difficult choosing to hook long balls into the penalty box shortly after going a goal down.
In the end Namibia contained the pressure to take the solitary goal advantage for the second leg in Harare this Sunday. Namibia coach Ricardo Mannetti was over the moon and thanked the fans for creating robust atmosphere.
“On Thursday, I called on 10,000 to come and see us play but boy was I caught complete off guard. To see so many people gets me very emotional and determined not to disappoint them and when we got the goal, I paused and then celebrated; it was unbelievable how many people were at the stadium. It was just incredible and I wanted and prayed for that moment to last until the end. Thank you Namibia,” he said.
He added that he cannot be greedy and ask for more. “This victory was long overdue and when Somaeb scored, I prayed and hoped that Zimbabwe don’t spoil the brilliant goal and the memorable occasion for all of us.”
The team that comes out on top in Harare this Sunday will either take on Lesotho or Comoros on road to CHAN 2018 finals in Kenya.