ZIMBABWE’S preparations for the 2015 Rugby World Cup qualifiers in Madagascar later this month were dealt another major blow following the withdrawal of an unnamed major sponsor and the subsequent cancellation of planned tour of South Africa.
The Brendan Dawson-coached-Sables had earmarked two preparatory matches in South Africa against Limpopo Blue Bulls and their academy side before heading for Madagascar. They will play the hosts, Namibia and Kenya from June 26 to July 6. The winner of the four-team contest will automatically qualify for the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England next year.
“Zimbabwe rugby has recently had the misfortune of a sponsor withdrawing their support for the Sables in late stages of negotiation,” the Zimbabwe Rugby Union (ZRU) said in a statement.
“Previous efforts with other corporates have not come to fruition for the Rugby World Cup qualification programme. Zimbabwe Rugby has subsequently come to the decision that they will revert to a 10-day camp in Harare prior to the qualification tournament and not travel to Musina for two scheduled warm-up matches for the team.
“Further compounding the issue has been the fact that the local union are not in a financial position to cover hosting expenses of the Zimbabwe team during the four days in Musina.
“Plans to strengthen the relationship with the home union are now directed towards playing a series of matches in February and June 2015.”
The Sables’ latest setback in their bid to secure enough game time before the World Cup qualifiers comes at a time when rivals Kenya and Namibia are intensifying their preparations.
Kenya, who played in the Vodacom Cup competition in South Africa early this year, continued with preparations when they hosted South African Currie Cup side Western Province for a high-profile international friendly in Nairobi last weekend.
They narrowly lost the highly competitive match 28-32 after conceding a last-minute try.
Western Province will now head to Namibia — Zimbabwe’s other rival for a World Cup slot — for another international friendly in Windhoek this weekend. Meanwhile, ZRU remained optimistic saying they would now channel the resources they had towards holding a 10-day camp in the capital next Monday.
A top South African scrummaging expert is expected to assist them in their preparations which will also consist of an inter-squad trial match next Friday.