‘Namibia, we are coming!’


ZIMBABWE Rugby Union director Liam Middleton admits that the Sables would need to change their tactical approach ahead of their showdown against bogey side Namibia in Antananarivo on Wednesday.


The Sables were far too strong for hosts Madagascar in the opening match of the 2015 Rugby World Cup qualifiers on Saturday, defeating the Indian Ocean Islanders 57-22.

Middleton, who is part of the Sables backroom staff in Madagascar as technical advisor, however, said a wounded Namibia, who lost 22-29 to Kenya in their opening match would, however, present a completely different challenge.

“Namibia are a totally different team to Madagascar. We need to control our set-piece particularly the scrum,” the former Bristol RFC coach said.

“We need to move the ball in attack to get their big players running. I believe if we win our first phase ball we will be in a good position to win. We have no major injuries, which is a massive boost and the team is in high spirits,” he said.

Traditionally, Zimbabwe have struggled against the Namibians on the physical aspect of the game as local players are generally smaller, but quicker compared to the Namibians who are naturally huge.

This has seen the Namibians dominate Zimbabwe over the years with their imposing forwards pack by beating the Sables 22 times in 25 meetings since 1991.

In the majority of these encounters, they have come out tops because of their forwards’ ability to dominate in the tighter exchanges and secure quick balls for their backs.

However, if Saturday’s performance is anything to go by, the Sables seem to have done their homework and are expected to match the Namibians in that department.

The Sables’ forwards were immense as they dominated during set-piece play while the loose forwards were able to provide quick balls to exploit the Makies’ fringe defence and create gaps in the backline.

In contrast, the Namibians struggled with their discipline when pressurised by the Kenyans in that department and the Sables would want to take full advantage.

Middleton said he was particularly impressed by the loose three flankers Jacques Leitao, Graeme Lawler and eighthman Lambert Groenewald.

“Jacques Leitao was outstanding; his attacking play with ball in hand made him a standout player. He also made a lot of tackles and played the last 60 minutes of the game with a broken nose. He was a real warrior,” he said.

“Groenewald had a couple of very good runs, setting up Leitao for the first try. He had to go after 25 minutes because of illness and vomiting and was replaced by Njabulo Ndlovu who played well.

“Lawler at number six was very physical and hardworking throughout the game and we will definitely need more of that against the Namibians.”