THE Zimbabwe XVs rugby team slipped one place on the latest International Rugby Board (IRB) rankings after the 29-17 loss to Kenya in the Africa Cup Division 1A final in Antananarivo, Madagascar, on Sunday.
While their opponents Kenya rose an impressive six places on the rankings from position 37 to an all-time high of 31, the Sables slipped one place from 31 to position 32.
Kenya won the African Cup, their second title since 2011, after beating the defending champions Zimbabwe. The Kenyan victory coming just four days after they had had earlier dispatched their neighbours Uganda 52-11, necessitated their significant rise on the rankings.
Zimbabwe on the other hand, had started their campaign brightly with a 38-18 semi-final win over Madagascar at the same stage, but came unstuck against the Kenyans.
Speaking after the team’s arrival yesterday, Sables coach Brendon Dawson said although he was pleased that his charges managed to retain their place in the Division 1A, he was equally disappointed they could not successfully defend their title.
He attributed his team’s defeat to lack of depth after travelling to Madagascar with a weakened side.
A number of top players were left out following a last-minute complaint and petition against team management which severely weakened the team.
“Obviously I’m happy that we managed to achieve our main objective, which was to remain in the group for next year’s World Cup qualifiers.
“The second objective was to defend our title, but unfortunately we couldn’t manage to achieve that. We travelled with a very weakened side which had very young and inexperienced players especially in the backline.
However, I want to commend the players who travelled for giving it their all and ensuring that we have a chance of qualifying for the World Cup,” he added.
The victory against Madagascar left the Sables just two games away from making their third appearance at the World Cup. The Sables will play Madagascar in the semi-final of the Division 1A next year with Kenya playing Namibia in the other semi-final. Namibia were promoted to the top tier of the competition after emerging top of 1B.
The winner of next year’s competition gains automatic qualification to the 2015 World Cup.