The Herald (Harare)

13 December 2012

Zimbabwe: Belgium Expose Sables

THE Sables on Tuesday put up a comical performance, showed lack of seriousness and were left exposed after falling to Belgium in their second game of the Emirates Four-Nations invitational rugby tournament in Dubai.

There was nothing to celebrate over the way the Brandon Dawson-coached side played as they failed to display basic playing structures in both defence and attack, losing 11-28 to Belgium.

Zimbabwe indeed painted a sad picture that left a lot to be desired especially for a side that is aiming to qualify for the next Rugby World Cup.

It was only in the early stages of the game that they played some good rugby, going to the break commanding a 11-8 lead through two penalties by flyhalf Tichafara Makwanya and a try by number eight Takunda Chifokoyo.

The Belgians responded through a try and a penalty.

This was one of the worst performances by the Sables in over two years as most of the players, both in the forwards and backline, failed to justify their inclusion in the national side.

In fact, Dawson and his men made a mockery of the nation given his players could not even make clear passes, the forwards failed to display basic scrimmaging skills while the midfield could not play flowing rugby.

Ill-discipline also cost Zimbabwe and at one stage they were three men down after losing Sanele Sibanda, Nic Winwoodand lock Jan Ferreira for collapsing the maul.

In a game littered with lack of discipline, which saw a total of five yellow cards and a red card issued, coach Dawson was quick to put the blame on referee Toby Lothian for poor officiating, saying he expected better levels of refereeing at such international tournaments.

"When we come to tournaments like this we are expecting the best because we, as a Zimbabwe side, are trying to improve.

"There was no control of the game (by the referee)," said the former Sables captain.

It was in the second half that the Belgians changed their game plan to go round Zimbabwe and get the better of them, but the Sables failed to adapt as they did not change their game plan to maintain the lead.

Given that the Sables had lost two men, Belgium made the most of their numerical advantage to turn around an 11-8 deficit at half-time with prop Julien Massimi starting the comeback with a 44th minute try.

Belgium, though, also ended the match without one of their own after substitute Alain Mirialakis was sent off in the 53rd minute.

This means that the Sables conceded 20 unanswered points in the second half and the try by Mirialakis made sure they never recovered.

However, Dawson feels that it is in the latter stages of the game that the Sables played better rugby as his army tried to remain focused on the game.

"We're trying to achieve everytime we've come out to play. Twenty-three out of the 25 players we've brought over are 22 (years old) and under so it's a learning curve (for them). There were a lot of positives and (hopefully) we can take those and use them in the next game."

This was Zimbabwe's second defeat in the tournament following a 7-22 loss to defending champions Hong Kong on Saturday and Tuesday's loss means that they will take on hosts United Arab Emirates in a third place game tomorrow.

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