ZIMBABWE coach Peter de Villiers believes the Sables still have a good opportunity to qualify for next year's Rugby World Cup in Japan despite being held to a 23-23 draw by the visiting Morocco national rugby team at Harare Sports Club on Saturday.
The result leaves the Sables - who face Kenya in their next match on June 30, before tougher matches against Tunisia, Namibia and Uganda - facing an uphill task in their bid to qualify for their first World Cup since in 27 years.
De Villiers, who was leading Zimbabwe for the first time since his appointment in February however insisted the Sables have the character and quality to make history by rebounding from Saturday's frustrating draw.
"We are all alive and when you're alive there's hope, so we've got hope that we will qualify. There are a lot of positives to take from this match and we are not down and out but we are not very happy for not taking our chances," De Villiers said after the match.
The former South Africa coach was left frustrated after flyhalf Lenience Tambwera missed a last gasp penalty to win the game for the hosts as the tightly contested opening match of the 2018 Rugby Africa Gold Cup ended in a stalemate.
Zimbabwe took the game to the Moroccans early in the game courtesy of two brilliant tries by 21-year-old debutant fullback Shingi Katsvere to cancel out the visitors' early penalty and lead 14-3 inside the first 30 minutes.
Moroccans buoyed by their bigger pack of forwards however hit back with a converted try of their own from scrumhalf Ismail Nassik and a penalty from flyhalf Chakir Hmidouch to lead 14-16 at halftime.
After the break, Zimbabwe dominated the territorial stakes and had a bulk of the possession as Tambwera slotted home two more penalties.
The physically bigger Moroccans in return outplayed them at the breakdown and in set-piece play, scoring another try through wing Qadiri Karim before Zimbabwe hit back with a penalty of their own late in the match to tie the contest at 23-all.
Zimbabwe had a late chance to win the match but missed a late penalty and De Villiers feels his side wasted the chance to get their campaign off to a winning start.
"You can describe it as a game of missed opportunities, we made it too easy for them in the game and, in the end, we paid the price. I don't care what level you are playing in, if you don't take your chances, your opponents will punish you," de Villiers said.
"We gave them two soft tries and then we had to play catch up after that, the character of the team came out when we had to play catch up and we just managed to draw it at the end and we missed a chance to win it."