NAIROBI, Kenya Jul 2- Zimbabwe 15s head coach Peter de Villiers was impressed by Kenya’s fighting spirit and resilience after the home side snatched victory off their hands grounding two late tries to beat them 45-36 in their second match of the Rugby Africa Gold Cup on Saturday at the RFUEA Ground.
The Sables had come off trailing 33-17 at the break but they scored 19 unanswered points against Kenya in the second half.
Nonetheless, the Simbas roared with a brace of late tries from substitute Dalmus Chituyi to snatch victory and put the Southern Africans’ campaign in tatters.
“Kenya is always a good team. If you look at their sevens, it is setting the world alight. These guys draw energy from that kind of performance. Well done to Kenya; we actually want to congratulate them on the way they fought back at the end when the odds were against them and that makes a great team,” De Villiers, a former South Africa head coach said after the game.
He added; “When you are down and you can fight and come up as victors, it makes you a good team. They are very good team and have good hope for this competition. No excuses for us, we were 15 men on the field, Kenya was just better than us on the day, no excuses.”
His sentiments were echoed by captain Denford Mutamangira who registered his 50th cap for the Sables on that day and he went on to state that the Simbas were more structurally improved compared to the last time they met in Zimbabwe last year.
Zimbabwe had been battered in the opening exchanges and were made to play catch up rugby with skipper Davis Chenge sending Kenya their way with a 33-17 lead at half time.
But, the visitors turned the tables on their hosts in the second half, pinning them in their own half and forcing them to mistakes turning over possession and responding with 19 unanswered points, seven of which came off a penalty try.
“We didn’t start as well as we planned but the character of the team showed we could fight back but we just couldn’t keep the foot on the GAS. It was a good game for both sides but the side that got the swing when the momentum was high scored the points and won the game,” the tactician noted.
Skipper Mutamangira was distraught with the result especially after seemingly having the game in their hands, only to drop their shoulders in the final minutes.
“We were caught off guard in the first half. We allowed them to run at us and we didn’t push up as we trained which gave them the upper hand to break our line in defense. We made it difficult for ourselves; it is difficult to play catch up rugby,” the captain noted.
With the result, Zimbabwe dropped to fourth in the standings with only the two points they picked from their opening 23-23 draw against Morocco.
The North Africans are third with a point more having gained a bonus point in their narrow defeat to Kenya.
The results now mean that Zimbabwe’s chances of vying for the Gold Cup are minimized and so are their dreams of making it to next year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan.
However, neither De Villiers nor his skipper Mutamangira has lost hope just yet, though the captain was a bit more realistic.
“It’s no longer in our hands; we can’t say whether we will qualify or not but it’s a tournament anything can happen along the way. We may not top the group but we can come second and play the repacharge tournament so we will keep pushing. All hope not lost but we are in a very difficult position,” Mutamangira said.
De Villiers who had a successful stint with the Springboks said; “You can’t give up in life. People don’t believe in you and they don’t give you chances. If you take it away too you are not doing yourself any favor. We are not giving up until the last minute.”
Zimbabwe’s next assignment will be away to Tunisia next weekend in Tunis, a match they need to win at all costs to keep their hopes alive. Tunisia are bottom of the pile having suffered an embarrassing 118-0 whitewash at the hands of leaders Namibia.