THE Zimbabwe Sables’ quest for a first appearance at the Rugby World Cup in more than three decades got off to a strong start in the French city of Marseille on Friday night.
The Sables powered to a 38-11 quarter-final win over Cote d’Ivoire in their quarter-final match to set up a semi-final showdown against Namibia on Wednesday.
The Namibians were also impressive in their 71-5 thrashing of Burkina Faso.
Sables coach Brendan Dawson knows that they have to move mountains for them to win the tournament and the ticket to the World Cup next year.
After all, Namibia appear to have found a way to beat the Sables, every time they meet in big matches, and seem to have developed a psychological edge over us.
Dawson was impressed with the way his team powered to victory against the Ivoirians but said there was still room for improvement for the Sables.
Our boys appeared to struggle in the lineouts where, more often than not, we didn’t seem to be picking the men ready to receive the ball and start our moves.
Maybe, these were the nerves that come with the opening day of the qualifiers, especially when so much is at stake.
In such tournaments, what matters at the end of the day is the result, style and everything else, will certainly come later.
And, to their credit, the Sables got the result they needed even though they also know they will now face probably the toughest force at these qualifiers.
Namibia have played at six World Cups with appearances in 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011, 2015 and 2019 while our last appearance was in 1991.
But, there is an expectation right now that we have probably sent a team which is good enough to qualify for the World Cup, if only we can hold our nerves and don’t let the occasion, or history, stalk us.
One can feel that the entire country is really behind the Sables, especially given the disappointment which came with the Warriors being barred from the 2023 AFCON qualifiers.
Then, of course, the Chevrons have been performing poorly of late.
After the victory over Cote d’Ivoire, the tone, among the Zimbabweans on social media, was that the Sables had played with passion and, if they can maintain that level, they could make it to the World Cup next year.
The media and the Government are also fully behind the Sables.
On Friday night, Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Deputy Minister, Kindness Paradza, asked the sports journalists to observe a minute of prayer for the Sables, ahead of their match against Cote d’Ivoire.
Paradza was the guest of honour at the function in which the sports journalists were honouring those who had performed well, in this profession, over the past year.
This shows that the whole country is united behind its Sables because we genuinely believe that we are a country which should be featuring regularly at the Rugby World Cup.
After all, we have shown that we are the nation which produces some of the finest rugby players in the world.