The Zimbabwean Under 18 side took to the field on Tuesday at the Coca-cola Craven week in Stellenbosch. After some disappointing earlier performances by other Zimbabwean teams at the tournament, our U18’s were hoping to raise the Zim flag high during their first encounter against Griquas Country District. Sadly, the boys came up short, with a closely fought 17-12 loss against the South African side.
The battle of the packs was won by a dominant Griquas front row who bullied the Zimbabwean forwards for the duration of the game. Despite this, Zimbabwe led the scoreboard for most of the game. Then, with just four minutes to go, Zimbabwe conceded a late equaliser. And it still wasn’t over, things would get worse. A mere two minutes before the final whistle, there was a heartbreaking try by the stronger Griquas side, who were relieved and overjoyed to snatch victory in the dying moments of the game.
It was handling errors and a lack of possession that made it difficult for the young Zimbabwean side to hold onto their early lead. They spent most of the game defending, making 140 tackles against the Griqua’s 60.
“A lack of concentration particularly in the last five minutes of the game,” is what Head Coach Godwin Murambiwa attributed the loss to, but he applauded the boys on their gritty defence.
Looking to bounce back from their disappointing loss, the Zimbabwe U18 side then took to the field today against Eastern Province Country Districts.
The boys looked confident and played with an intensity that took the opposition by surprise. Zimbabwe scored within the first five minutes of the match with a try from winger Sam Phiri. With good clearing at the rucks and a number of phases being put to good use, the boys were able to put on another ten points with tries by scrumhalf Ernest Mudzengerere and winger Tinotenda Vheriwa. However Zimbabwe’s flyhalf Benjamin Meredith was off form, and failed to convert any. Eastern Province managed to score two tries and a converted penalty with the Zimbabwean side scoring one last try before half time leaving the score at a promising 20- 15.
The possession in the first half was dominated by the young Zimbabwean side and their impressive defensive form was looking promising going into the second half. But not for long.
Eastern Province managed to score first when play resumed, and minutes later converted a penalty. The Zimbabwean team then seemed to fall apart as the opposition put on four more tries with the game ending at 51- 20 to the South Africans.
Perhaps it was a lack of concentration, a lapse in defence, or poor fitness, but the Zimbabwean side will be sorely disappointed in their performance in the second half. Having lost their two opening games the side will now look to Saturday’s test against Namibia, and can hopefully end the tournament on a high.