LUSAKA, ZambiaOn a calm and chilly Saturday 9th June, 2018 afternoon in Lusaka, Zambia, expectant rugby fans flocked to the Chester Dean Arena at the Showgrounds to watch the much anticipated game dubbed “Battle of the Zambezi” as hosts Zambia faced neighbours Zimbabwe in an annual showpiece.
In an interview before the game, Head Coach Lawrence Njovu of Zambia was babbling with confidence. He said, “The boys have gone through their paces, each one knows what they need to do in order to get the job done”.
He added that his charges were not under pressure despite having lost to Zimbabwe in Harare 2017. He further said the fact that the game was being played when the Zambian rugby league was almost half way through made his job easier as most players were at their peak and all he had to do was fine tune them to his specifications in order to please his expectant fans.
On the other hand, his Zimbabwean counterpart had this to say, “My boys know what they need to do, we are not here on picnic but to give them enough exposure for their eventual selection into the Sables ranks and file. He continued saying “Most of these boys are making their debut for Zimbabwe and are taking it very seriously and very personal hence we expect great display from our side.
The boys have brought back the smiles on our fans faces, they have announced their intentions even as they await to host Madagascar and Botswana in the Silver Cup
When the game started, Zimbabwe made their intentions known by drawing first blood with an unconverted try, 6 mims later, hosts Zambia responded with a try of their own from lock Fernand Kashimoto which was easily converted by flyhalf Laston Mukosa. With a few minutes to go before half time, Centre and Zambia 7s skipper Israel Kalumba scored a brilliant try under the post after shaking off 4 Zimbabwean players in their own 22, again Mukosa was equal to the task and added the 2 points with ease. At the half time whistle, Zambia was leading 14-05.
After the break both teams brought lots of sparks in the game but Zambia proved the more determined with prop Birthlock Sikaona plowing through the Zim defence and dotting down a try which Mukosa failed to convert. Zimbabwe came back in the game by scoring a try courtesy of which they also converted. However, the hosts had the final say of the day afTer in-form fullback scored a try in the dying minutes of the game which was successfully converted by Laston Mukosa.
When the referee Ben Phiri blew the final whistle, the entire audience gave both teams a standing ovation for excellent play and for displaying great sportsmanship on and off the pitch.
In post match interviews, both Coaches expressed satisfaction with their teams performance but noted that they still needed to do some work in order to get the best out of their boys. The Zim coach further said “My boys have outdone my expectations, as you know, when one is introduced on an international platform they usually experience Stage Fright but my boys skipped all that by putting Country First. The Zambia coach said ” The boys have brought back the smiles on our fans faces, they have announced their intentions even as they await to host Madagascar and Botswana in the Silver Cup to be played at Mufulira Rugby Club from 7th to 14th July, 2018. He further said that his technical bench was taking everything seriously as he aimed at restoring the fans confidence in Team Zambia. He also praised his team for brilliant execution of their tasks.
The Zambia Rugby Union (ZRU) President General Clement Sinkamba could not hide his delight after the game. He said his executive was working round the clock to source for sponsorship and this result would make things easier for them. He called on business houses to come on board and partner with the ZRU as it would be a win-win situation for all involved. He reiterated that his EXCO would put all logistics in place to ensure the team qualified to the Gold Cup which was a step closer to The Rugby World Cup.