Madagascar climb rankings after shock win
Madagascar have jumped 14 places in the latest IRB World Rankings to equal their highest ever position of 42nd after beating Namibia 57-54 to win the Africa Cup Division 1B title on home soil, a competition which doubled as the start of the Rugby World Cup 2015 qualifying process in the continent.
Ranked 35 places below Namibia going into the four-team tournament, Madagascar was in inspired form all week and, having already beaten the higher ranked Morocco to reach the final, sent 40,000 fans home happy with their last gasp extra-time victory at the Mahamasina Stadium in Antananarivo.
The final had been a rollercoaster affair, swinging one way and then the other. Madagascar had raced into a 19-0 lead in the first 20 minutes as the Namibians struggled to find their feet in the cacophony of noise generated by the home fans.
Namibia managed to score two first half tries, but it was still Madagascar who went in leading 29-14. The match swung the opposite way after the break with Namibia racing back to lead 43-29 with 10 minutes remaining of the title decider.
Madagascar, though, drew inspiration from their vociferous supporters to score two tries and force the match into two 10-minute periods of extra time. Once more Namibia edged ahead to lead 54-50 with two minutes to go, but Madagascar were not to be denied promotion to Division 1A in 2013.
They will replace the bottom side in the Division 1A, which kicks off on Tuesday with hosts Tunisia tackling Zimbabwe and Kenya facing Uganda. The Africa Cup champion will be crowned on Saturday when the winners of these two matches meet in the final.
While Madagascar have rocketed up the latest rankings after their two victories in the last seven days, Namibia’s loss sees them fall one place to 22nd with Uruguay the beneficiaries. They now sit only seven hundredths above Belgium.
Morocco's RWC dream over
Namibia’s bid to qualify for a fifth successive Rugby World Cup is still alive despite the loss to Madagascar, although they must win Division 1B next year to ensure they are part of the Division 1A competition in 2014 when the winner will qualify for England 2015 as Africa 1 and the runner-up enter the Répechage.
The RWC 2015 dream, though, has ended for Morocco after they suffered a 26-25 loss to Senegal in the third place play-off to be relegated to Division 1C in 2013, a competition which is not be part of the qualification process.
Senegal had suffered heartbreak on Wednesday when Namibia snatched a 20-18 win at the death, but this time came through a tight encounter and as a result climb two places in the IRB World Rankings to a new high of 50th.
The losses to lower ranked Madagascar and Senegal mean that Morocco have fallen five places to 32nd in the last rankings, with Hong Kong, Poland, Ukraine, Germany and Zimbabwe all climbing one place.
CAR President Abdelaziz Bougja said: “It is fitting that the beginning of the African journey to England 2015 should begin in a nation where Rugby is the national sport. Forty-thousand enthralled fans packed into the Mahamasina Stadium in the nation's capital city Antananarivo to see the home side triumph over Namibia. They also saw Senegal edge out Morocco on a day when the quality of the Rugby matched the passion and noise of an amazing crowd.”
The IRB World Rankings update every Monday at 12:00 UK time.