Any doubt about who should be playing at number 7 for the Wallabies this season has been erased by the Waratahs’ comprehensive 45-12 rout of the Reds in the gathering rain on Saturday evening.
Zimbabwe won the Victoria Cup on Saturday with a 41-5 defeat of Zambia in Lusaka. The four-nation tournament was revived this year after the cancellation of the African championships.
Zimbabwe were in fact the defending champions, having headed off Kenya for the title eight years ago. The Simbas had won the inaugural championship the year before that.
Also involved were Uganda, who finished third with three wins and three losses. Zambia were involved for the first time and suffered six straight defeats. They were by no means out of their depth, however, and ran the Ugandans close in their previous outing.
There is still one game remaining, with Kenya hosting Zimbabwe next weekend. The Sables head into that match with five straight wins and an unassailable lead on the table. Kenya have lost twice.
Natal Sharks U21 tighthead prop Cleopas Kundiona, playing his first game of the year for Zimbabwe, scored a brace of tries against Zambia. Sables led 22-0 at halftime.
Captain Hilton Mudariki, wing Takudzwa Kumadiro, flyhalf Dudlee White-Sharpley, fullback Martin Mangongo and flanker Blithe Mavesere were the other try-scorers. The hosts’ lone score came with a break down the right wing just after the interval.
This may be an indication that new coach Brendon Dawson has got the formula right. Dawson was appointed earlier in the year after former Springboks coach Peter de Villiers was controversially dismissed for an “unauthorised absence from work”.
Assistant coach Tonderai Chavhanga says Zimbabwe are keen to finish on a winning note in Kenya regardless. The Sables have experienced some lean years since their last World Cup appearance almost three decades ago, often disappointing in the African championships.
Kenya, despite failing to live up to their “favourites” tag, have received some good news anyway, with the announcement of a K115 million (A$1.6 million) sponsorship deal with Kenya Breweries Limited).
This has led to the revival of the Safari Sevens tournament after almost a decade in hiatus. The BlitzBoks and Spain have already signed up, along with Zimbabwe, Uganda, French and Russian teams, and leading provincial sides Western Province and the Blue Bulls. The tournament will be staged between 18 and 20 October.
Meanwhile, there was one other international rugby fixture this weekend, with the Dominican Republic defeating the British Virgin Islands 15-0 in Santo Domingo after the first half had ended scoreless.
The result was quite a turnaround for the Dominicans, who had lost their previous encounters with BVI 62-5 and 17-0, albeit it 19 and 12 years ago respectively. In fact it is the first time they have beaten anyone in official competition apart from Curacao, who they have defeated three times.
It is interesting to compare populations, with the Dominican Republic’s approaching 11 million and BVI’s a mere 35,000. Neither team is ranked by World Rugby, but the latter entered the match at 34th in the Americas, Dominican Republic 37th ahead of Honduras and El Salvador only.
The Dominicans’ success augurs well for rugby in the region. They share the island of Hispaniola with Haiti and are in close proximity to Cuba. All three nations have similar populations and have met in the past in sevens competition.
Like its African counterpart, the North American competition carries on right into the opening week of the World Cup, with Bermuda hosting Guadeloupe in the final next Saturday. The pair are ranked 15th and 24th in the Americas respectively. Bermuda also have a World Rugby ranking of 69th.