The final round meeting between Namibia and Kenya in Windhoek on 18 August is shaping up to be the Rugby Africa Gold Cup title decider with both teams well clear of the chasing pack after three straight wins.
While the Welwitschias sat out the latest round of matches, Kenya stayed in touch at the top of the standings with a 38-22 victory over Uganda in Nairobi.
The failure to get a bonus point from any of their matches, however, leaves them three points adrift of the reigning champions in pursuit of the title and the Africa 1 ticket to Rugby World Cup 2019.
In the day’s other Gold Cup fixture, Tunisia opened their account with a hard-fought 18-14 win over Zimbabwe in Béja. The victory also saw them climb a couple of places in the rankings to 40th with Sri Lanka and Morocco the sides to fall accordingly.
Meanwhile, Zambia’s 32-13 Silver Cup win against higher-ranked Botswana resulted in a 13-place swing. Zambia went into the weekend 11 places worse off than their opponents but are now two places higher in 71st, a rise of seven places. Algeria’s 22-18 win over Senegal did not count towards the rankings as they are not full members of World Rugby.
Away from Africa, Hong Kong defeated the Cook Islands 51-0 to clinch a place in the RWC 2019 global repechage in November. Hong Kong’s rating was not improved by the result, as they are ranked significantly higher than their opponents.
KENYA 38-22 UGANDA
Kenya secured the Elgon Cup 72-38 on aggregate after outscoring their East African neighbours Uganda by five tries to four in an entertaining encounter at the RFUEA Grounds in Nairobi.
Saturday’s victory backed up the Simbas’ 34-16 win in the first leg at the end of May and came courtesy of tries from winger Jacob Ojee, captain Davies Chenge, half-back Samson Onsomu, winger Felix Ayange and prop Moses Amusala. Darwin Mukidza was successful with all five conversions and also kicked a penalty goal.
For Uganda, who now prop up the Gold Cup standings, winger Philip Wokorach bagged a brace with centre Michael Okorach and fly-half Ivan Magomu also getting on the scoresheet.
Returning winger Ojee gave the home side the perfect start with a try after just seven minutes before Wokorach replied for the Cranes in the 15th minute.
Chenge, Kenya’s hat-trick hero in last weekend’s tense win over Zimbabwe, was next to cross before quickfire tries from Onsomu and Ayange put Kenya into what seemed like an unassailable 28-5 lead at the break.
Uganda came out a different side in the second half and a run of 17 points with only a penalty conceded in reply put them back within touching distance. However, a late try from replacement Moses Amusala ensured Kenya closed out the win.
"We improved from last week but there is still more we can do,” said Kenya assistant coach Murray Roulston. “But we are very happy with the boys and we look forward to the next round of matches.”
Kenya now have a five-week break before their next match at home to Tunisia on 11 August. Uganda face the same opposition in Kampala seven days earlier.
TUNISIA 18-14 ZIMBABWE
Having been humbled 118-0 in their opening Gold Cup match against Namibia, Tunisia put in a much-improved performance to earn a come-from-behind victory against Zimbabwe in Béja.
After a cagey and scoreless opening quarter, Tunisia took the lead in the 24th minute when prop Mohamed Mliss crashed over for a try that went unconverted. However, the home side’s joy was short-lived as Zimbabwe hit back three minutes later when Linience Tambwera converted his own score.
Turning around 7-5 in front, Zimbabwe doubled their tally in the 51st minute when centre Brendon Mandivenga scored their second try and Tambwera once again added the extras.
But the game changed when Zimbabwe lost Kudzai Mashawi to the sin-bin with Tunisia taking a 15-14 lead while the centre was off the field thanks to Mohamed Ali Gafsi's penalty and Issam Werhani's converted try.
Tunisia successfully defended their one-point lead despite losing hooker Hichem Mokni to a 69th-minute yellow card before Ali Gafsi sealed the win with a late drop goal.
“The players spared no effort and they were true gladiators on the pitch, they made sacrifices by leaving everything behind and joining the team. Bravo!” said an excitable Tunisia coach, Ahmed Guerbech.
Zimbabwe assistant coach Jacob Stoman, meanwhile, bemoaned his side’s costly errors. “Each time we made a mistake, it got Tunisia back in the game. We lacked composure.”