By Paul Munyuki
Namibia will be returning to the IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy next year after defeating hosts Zimbabwe 44-23 in the CAR Africa Under 19 Championship on Saturday.
The defeat ended Zimbabwe’s three-year reign as African champions with Namibia deservedly booking the continent’s sole ticket to JWRT 2013 in Chile.
Namibia produced a polished performance, establishing a 27-6 lead that their hosts were never able to recover from despite their valiant efforts in the last 15 minutes.
The Namibians capitalised on the errors from Zimbabwe and outscored their hosts by six tries to three at Prince Edward School in Harare.
Ethan Beukes charged down to score a converted try in the left corner to open the Namibia’s account with just under three minutes on the clock, immediately putting Zimbabwe on the back foot.
Beukes’ brother Deslee kept the scoreboard ticking over with a drop goal and a penalty before wing Donavan Kandji ran in another try to finish off a flowing move.
With the scrum half taking too long to release from the set pieces, Zimbabwe’s mobile backline were rendered ineffective and their only points in the opening half came from the boot of fly half Luke Masasire.
“We played well from the ruck and the changes that were made to the technical team by Namibia rugby have come to pay because we put in a lot of effort in our preparations and they have paid off,” said Namibia coach Jood Opperman.
“Zimbabwe had a lot of gaps in their play and we have to take advantage of that but I am happy with the win and we have to prepare very seriously for the Junior World Rugby Trophy.
High quality rugby
“These are exciting times for Namibian rugby as this is our fourth win over Zimbabwe this year, if you consider that we have beaten them from the Under 13s all the way to the Under 19s. We are slowly regaining our status as the continent leading side in age-grade rugby and credit to the union for all the support,”
His Zimbabwean counterpart Brighton Chivandire, who has led Zimbabwe the last three editions of the Junior World Rugby Trophy, was disappointed with the result.
“I am very disappointed but in international rugby it is very difficult to come back from 21 points down and win the game. We played well in the last 15 minutes but that is what we were supposed to do from the first minute.
“It’s difficult to recover in the last 15 minutes from such a huge points difference.”
The other Pool A match saw Kenya overcome Tunisia 22-10 to finish third and condemn their opponents to relegation to Pool B for 2013.
Their place will be taken by Madagascar, who matched the efforts of their senior team to win promotion to the top division of a Confédération Africaine de Rugby tournament.
"This tournament provided some high quality rugby and proved to be a great success both on and off the field," said IRB Regional General Manager for Africa, Jean-Luc Barthes.
"Over the course of the three match days Namibia came out on top and deservedly take their place next year in Chile. We wish them luck there in representing the continent of Africa."
Namibia will join Asian qualifiers Japan, host nation Chile and Italy, the side relegated from the IRB Junior World Championship in 2012, in the eight-team tournament. The other four places will be filled through regional qualifiers.
CAR Under 19 Championship Results
Saturday 25 August
Harare Select 27-14 Zambia
Zimbabwe 13-10 Kenya
Madagascar 34-17 Morocco
Namibia 44-7 Tunisia
Tuesday 28 August
Namibia 39-11 Kenya
Madagascar 18-5 Zambia
Zimbabwe 42-0 Tunisia
Harare Select 38-8 Morocco
Saturday 1 September
Morocco 39-28 Zambia
Tunisia 10-22 Kenya
Harare Select 29-29 Madagascar
Zimbabwe 23-44 Namibia
Paul Munyuki is a rugby writer with The Herald of Zimbabwe.