The closing matchday of the Africa Gold Cup/World Cup Qualifiers is upon us. When Uganda hosts Zimbabwe at Kyadondo today, the two teams will be playing for contrasting reasons.
Uganda, third on nine points from four games, cannot qualify for Japan 2019, but their third place is already secured. That guarantees them three home games next year.
Zimbabwe Sables’ three points and fifth position puts them under immense pressure.
They know that their destiny is not entirely in their hands.
They, alongside Tunisia and Morocco, are in a relegation dogfight that will land one of them into the Silver Cup group.
Uganda’s Cameroonian born front row, Martial Tchumkam, knows this too well. The big bearded fellow played for Uganda in Africa’s second tier in 2015, and he knows what Zimbabwe will be looking out for.
“Yes, most people think we shall just be playing for the fun of it. That is not true because our opponents will come for a big fight. They know how bad it is to be relegated and they will be looking for all way s to survive. “The Silver Cup is a very challenging group where you find yourselves playing so many games in a very short time. We were there and felt the pain, and that is what Zimbabwe will be trying to avoid. But away from that, we also want to win all our home games this year and this being the last game, we want to finish the campaign on a high,” Tchumkam said.
Coach John Duncan has made two changes from the 15 that started against Morocco last weekend, with flyhalf Robert Masendi and dead-side winger Solomon Okia coming in for benched Ivan Magomu and injured James Odongo.
Couple of absentees
Zimbabwe coach, Peter de Villiers, will feel undone by the absence of the Mudariki brothers-Hilton and Farai, who didn’t travel to Kampala due to family reasons. Flyhalf Lenience Tambwera also did not travel, but De Villiers will most likely start Brendon Mandikenga, who is expected to pass a late fitness test. Prop Denford Mutamangira, the Sables’ veteran captain, rallied his troops to give their best outing in years.
“We are playing for our lives. We have not had a good campaign but that’s something we need to forget and focus on Uganda because we don’t want to be in the mathematics of relegation,” he said. In fact, it is safe to say Uganda is the only team with a clear view of next year. A look at the tip of the table serves an enticing menu. Log leaders Namibia (20 points) host Kenya (17 points) at the Hage Geingob in Windhoek in the battle of the unbeaten. With both teams having a chance to qualify for next year’s global showpiece, there is everything to play for.
Across the northern axis of the continent, the battle between Tunisia, fourth on four points and bottom-placed Morocco, on three points, should be as bruising as they come.
RUGBY CRANES XV
1. Martial Tchuckman,
2. Paul Ssekate,
3. Asuman Mugerwa,
4. Charles Uhuru,
5. Robert Aziku,
6. Byron Oketayot,
7. Brian Asaba,
8. Eliphaz Emong,
9. Aaron Ofoyrwoth,
10. Robert Masendi,
11. Solomon Okia,
12. Pius Ogena,
13. Michael Wokoroach, 14. Justin Kimono,
15. Phillip Wokoroach
16. Joseph Tamale,
17. Collins Kimbowa,
18. Santos Ssenteza,
19. Simon Olet,
20. Arthur Mukama,
21. Ivan Magomu,
22. Eric Mula,
23. Adrian Kasito