By Lawrence Trusida, Sport Editor
ZIMBABWE will go into the crunch 2022 Rugby Africa Cup opener against Côte d’Ivoire on Friday full of confidence after going up the World Rugby Rankings.
The Sables’ 30-7 win over the Netherlands in Amsterdam on Saturday came with a reward of 2.62 points, taking their overall rating to 54.44 points.
The saw the Sables moving up to 27th on the World Rugby Men’s Rankings.
Zimbabwe was the highest climber on the rankings after moving seven places up from 34th, while the Dutch dropped two places to 28th.
It is the Sables’ highest position since November 2015 when they were ranked 26th.
Zimbabwe is now ranked 15 places above their 2022 Rugby Africa Cup quarter-final opponents, Côte d’Ivoire.
They are just three places behind regional rivals Namibia, who are Africa’s second highest ranked nation on position 24 ahead of a potential semi-final meeting if both teams win their respective matches on Friday.
The Sables are in good spirits having been in camp for four months where they have had the much-needed game time after playing in the South African Currie Cup first division in addition to two tests against higher ranked nations Brazil and Netherlands.
“We are happy with the preparations so far. In Saturday’s game most of the things we have been working on have come good and we are hoping to execute better when we play Ivory Coast on Friday, but generally I am happy and the boys are ready,” said Brendan Dawson Sables coach.
The winner of the Rugby Africa Cup which is set for Marseille, France will automatically qualify for the 2023 Rugby World Cup to be hosted by the same European country.
The Sables have brought in some experienced professionals in fullback Tapiwa Mafura, who has just helped the Pumas of South African to victory in the Currie Cup Premier division.
Highly rated-South Africa-born loose forward, Jason Fraser has also joined the team.
The 31-year-old Durban-born flanker came through the youth ranks at the Sharks and Golden Lions before featuring for South African Currie Cup teams Boland Cavaliers, Pumas and Griquas between 2014 and 2017.
Fraser is now teammates with injured front-rower, Farai Mudariki at Nevers in the French Pro D2, which has been his home for the last five years.