It was a case of third time lucky as Zimbabwe beat Namibia 39-7 in the CAR (Confederation of African Rugby) Under 19 Championship final in Nairobi on Monday to book their place at next year’s IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy.
Namibia had beaten their rivals in the two previous finals, including a 16-13 triumph in 2008, but this time Zimbabwe had the edge and their tactic of shutting down their opponents and not allowing them time to build momentum had the desired result.
Zimbabwe can now look forward to a first appearance in the IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy – the second tier competition at Under 20 level – as Africa’s representatives. The Host Union and dates for the tournament will be confirmed in due course.
The Zimbabweans were quick out of the blocks in a match played at high pace, barely allowing the top seeds a chance to settle, with flanker Brendan Chapman scoring in the ninth minute.
Even the loss of second row Schalk Ferreira within minutes did not derail Zimbabwe and following his return fly half Farai Mupasiri kicked a drop goal and then converted wing Tafadzwa Chitokwindo’s try to send his side in leading 17-0 at half time.
Namibia, who have finished fifth at the two previous Junior World Rugby Trophy’s, started the second half better with replacement wing Chase Dirgaard breaking through the defence to open their account, although Zirk Coetzee’s conversion would be his side’s last score.
Instead it was Zimbabwe, who sparked back into life at the 50-minute mark when some good running by the backs created a try for wing Terrence Kuvarega. Two minutes later Ferreira sprinted through the defence to stretch their advantage to 29-7.
There was still time for Mupasiri to kick a penalty and Chitokwindo to score his second try of the final played at the Rugby Football Union of East Africa Grounds in the Kenya capital of Nairobi – one of the venues for the Junior World Rugby Trophy 2009 back in April.
“This was sweet revenge,” admitted try scorer Chapman, who had been played in last year’s final defeat. “We expected it to be a close game and had planned to defend in every department, lock up their forwards and play in space.
“Namibia did not give up but exerted pressure up to the last minute. I think they were shocked after we led 17-0. It was also unlucky that their kicker Johan Deysel, who had been very accurate in the past matches was not on form today.”
Tunisia claim third place
His coach Byron Chivandire added: “We respect Namibia. They are a very good team. We were under no illusion about what they were capable of doing had they got the rhythm. Our plan was to shut them down and leave them with no option to run the ball, run in phases and eventually spread the ball wide.”
Namibia coach Heink Botha was gracious in defeat, admitting: “I have no complaints, we were totally outplayed by a very good side who deserved to win. This was not our day and Zimbabwe barely let us settle in the game.”
In the other matches on the final day in Nairobi, Tunisia overcame hosts Kenya 28-11 in the third place play-off. The two sides had traded penalties early on, but tries from Maher Kammoun and Jihed Hamdi gave Tunisia a nine-point advantage at the interval.
The loss of Willy Ambaka to the sin bin early in the second half did not help Kenya’s cause with wing Chedli Jabri scoring Tunisia’s third try while he was off the field to all but seal the victory before centre Chamseddine Khalfa kicked his third penalty – taking his tally to 13 for the match – just before the hour mark.
The fifth place play-off was abandoned with 17 minutes remaining and Uganda leading Morocco 22-0, while Zambia finished on a winning note with a 15-5 defeat of a Kenya Select side who had stepped in following Ivory Coast’s withdrawal.