A FOURTH consecutive African title for Zimbabwe under-19 rugby side proved a bridge too far to cross after they fell to a heart-breaking 44-23 defeat to Namibia in the Confederation of African Rugby championship finals.
Namibia got off to a cracker planting a converted try in the first minute of the match through centre Ethan Beukes, in a game in which the Young Sables lacked both rhythm and confidence. Deslee Beukes, brother to Ethan stretched the Namibian’s lead through a well taken drop goal in the 14th minute before Young Sables flyhalf Luke Masasire pulled three points back for Zimbabwe.
With the Young Sables forwards pack being bulldozed at every breakdown and sinking to handling errors at every turn it was not long before Namibia went over the advantage line in the 17th minute through prop GD Orlam.
Zimbabwe continued to play in patches with Masasire converting a penalty to leave the score at 17-6. Namibia were relentless in attack and capitalised on the Young Sables shortcomings who lacked cohesion between their back and forwards to go to the half time break in a commanding lead of 27-6.
Deep into the second half of the match off-form scrumhalf Ian Surtees was forced off due to blood bin. This made way for Robert Sergeant whilst fullback Tarisai Musakanda came off for Tinashe Toriro in a switch that breathed life into Zimbabwe’s campaign.
Sergeant injected the much-needed pace with quick recycling of the ball to the back line, whilst Toriro link up with centre Kudzai Mashawi and wing Takudzwa Kumadiro rejuvenated the Young Sables backline. Dale College based eighthman Tapiwa Tsomondo who played with his heart on his sleeve began to take the initiative with solo runs to attack the gain line. It was in this transition of good form that Kumadiro dived over the whitewash to reduce the gap to 32-11.
Mashawi planted Zimbabwe’s second try to leave the scores at 32-18. All of a sudden Zimbabwe was back in it. But poor tackling was again their worst enemy as eighthman Wian Conradie dived over for a converted try to relive the pressure. Kumadiro added his second of the game and his sides third in the dying minutes of the game. It was however a case of too little to let as Namibia closed their account with a try from flank Denis Jacob.
By winning this year’s tournament, the Gecko Namibia sponsored squad has claimed a spot at next year’s Junior World Rugby Trophy tournament set for Chile.