The Sables’ quest for a first win in the Rugby Africa Gold Cup campaign faces a formidable challenge when they host unbeaten Namibia in round four at Hartsfield Grounds in Bulawayo on Saturday.
Zimbabwe are facing the dire prospect of relegation from the elite Gold Cup after managing one draw and two defeats for a mere three points, while Namibia have thoroughly outclassed rivals to top the standings with 15.
In the other round-four encounter, bottom-placed Uganda, still without a point from two matches, host Tunisia.
Kenya, in second place with 12 points, will resume their campaign next week with a home tie against Tunisia.
In Bulawayo, however, it is the Sables who have all to do against the all-conquering Namibia team eager to wrap up the World Cup ticket which comes with topping this year’s Gold Cup standings. Namibia have been virtually unstoppable after seeing off Uganda (56-6), Tunisia (118-0) and Morocco (63-7) as they close in on a sixth consecutive World Cup appearance.
Zimbabwe will go into the encounter with some hope, though, after coming close to beating Namibia in their own backyard before eventually suffering a 31-26 loss last season.
The Sables showed some signs of life in the 45-36 defeat by Kenya in Nairobi last month, when they almost escaped with a win before conceding two last-gasp tries.
Coach Peter de Villiers has tried to inject some fresh energy into his team after adding flyhalf Hilton Mudariki and forward Antipas Kamkwindo, based in England and Germany, respectively.
The Cheetahs trio of Shayne Makombe, Tafadzwa Chitokwindo and Connor Pritchard have also been roped in, but all that might prove inadequate against a Namibia side whose attack has virtually been unstoppable.
Namibia have scored a total of 36 tries, with JC Greyling weighing in with six while wing Lesley Klim and fullback Crysander Botha have scored four each.
Flyhalf Cliven Loubser has also been influential with 20 conversions and two tries, and De Villiers’ men may have chosen the wrong stage to seek a maiden win.
Zimbabwe conclude their Gold Cup campaign away to Uganda on 18 August, the same day that Namibia host Kenya in a top-of-the-table showdown.