Zimbabwe national rugby union team
|Union||Zimbabwe Rugby Union|
| Southern Rhodesia 11 - 24 British Isles
(30 July 1910)
| Zimbabwe 130 - 10 Botswana
(9 September 1996)
| Namibia 68 - 8 Zimbabwe
(25 September 2004)
|Appearances||2 (First in 1987)|
|Best result||Zimbabwe 20–21 Romania|
The Zimbabwe national rugby union team is the rugby union team representing Zimbabwe. They are considered to be a third tier rugby union nation. The team has participated in rugby activities since the late 19th century with international matches being played as early as 1910.
The national team has a long association with touring British Isles teams, who would regularly play matches against them in their tours of South Africa. The earliest tour being in 1910 when Zimbabwe was known as Southern Rhodesia. The side has also played New Zealand on several occasions, the first being in the late 1920s.
The Zimbabwe national rugby team have competed at two World Cups, the first in 1987 and the second in 1991. With the Apartheid-era exclusion of South Africa, Zimbabwe were the first African nation to compete in the World Cup, although they are yet to win a finals fixture. The team are also known as the Sables.
When the Pioneer Column arrived in Rhodesia from the Cape Province in 1890 it brought with it the country's first rugby players. The oldest clubs in the country, Queens and the Bulawayo Athletic Club, were formed in 1894 in Bulawayo and the Rhodesia Rugby Football Union was founded one year later in 1895.
The first tour by a Rhodesian team to South Africa took place in 1898, and was composed of players from the five biggest clubs in the two major settlements of Bulawayo and Salisbury (today called Harare).
A British Lions team played a side called Southern Rhodesia on 30 July in 1910 in Bulawayo, the British saw victory, beating the team 24 points to 11. In 1924 a British side would play another match against Rhodesia, on 24 July in Salisbury, the British won 16 to 3. On 14 July 1928, Rhodesia played in Bulawayo against New Zealand, losing 8 to 44.
During their 1938 tour to South Africa, the British Lions played two matches against Rhodesia. The first, taking place on 20 July saw the British win 25 to 11, three days later the British won again, 45 to 11. These matches were played in Salisbury and Bulawayo. The 1949 the Rhodesian Rugby team lead by John Morkel famously beat a touring All Blacks side lead by Fred Allen in Bulawayo 10-8 on 27 July. Three days later they drew with the mighty All Blacks in Salisbury 3-3.
The 1955 tour of South Africa by the British Lions, had two fixtures against Rhodesia. The first on 27 July in Kitwe was won by the Lions, 27 to 14. The Lions won 16 to 12 in Salisbury in the following game.
In 1960, New Zealand again returned to play a match on 2 July at Glamis Park, Rhodesia losing 14 to 29 (6-6 at half time). The 1962 tour of South Africa by the British Lions had Rhodesia as the opening fixture on the tour. The opening game of the Lions tour saw the visitors win in Bulawayo, beating Rhodesia 38 to 9 on 26 May. The next tour, in 1964, the Lions won in Salisbury, beating the side 32 to 6. In 1973 Rhodesia played a one-off match against Italy, winning 42 to 4. In 1970 Rhodesia played New Zealand for the last time on 27 July, losing 14 to 27. The final record against the All Blacks was an impressive Played 5, won 1 drawn 1 and lost 3. In 1974, the Lions were back at Salisbury where they defeated Rhodesia 42 to 6. The coming decades of the 1960s and 1970s saw a number of home-grown players considered good enough to be selected for South Africa. Rhodesia's rugby playing strength reached its peak in the early to mid-1970s seasons when the country possessed 49 clubs, putting together 102 teams.
In 1980 the Rhodesia Rugby Football Union was renamed the Zimbabwe Rugby Union. A tour to England was undertaken that year playing six matches, the first against Surrey at Twickenham and one of the others being against Gloucestershire at Kingsholm on 1 October.
They played their first international game as Zimbabwe on 7 July 1981 against Kenya, winning 34 to 24. In 1987 they were invited to participate in the World Cup that year. Zimbabwe lost all three of its pool matches.
During the 1990s the Zimbabwe national team played regularly against Namibia as well as playing against the Ivory Coast and Morocco on a few occasions. In 1991 the team was again competing at the World Cup. Placed in pool B amongst sides Ireland, Scotland and Japan, but failed to win any games.
In June 2005, Zimbabwe started on the road to the 2007 World Cup, defeating Senegal 21 to 15 in the Africa round 1B: Pool A. But lost their second match against Côte d'Ivoire. Zimbabwe had a disappointing 2006 Africa Cup campaign, finished third in their group with Madagascar and Zambia.
Zimbabwe has produced many world-class rugby players over the years. Despite limited facilities and coaching, the country has been competitive up to high school grade. However, there is little incentive for most players to play beyond high school level, and consequently the club rugby pool is very diluted. There is little to choose from at national level and this has been the reason for Zimbabwe's rugby downfall.
As with many other sports, over the years numerous young Zimbabwean rugby talents have emigrated to play for other nations, mainly South Africa but also Australia, Scotland and other European countries. This trend has continued with players being attracted abroad by better playing and coaching facilities, as well as being pushed by the ever-declining economic climate in their country of origin.
The exodus includes some big names, the likes of Ray Mordt, Gary Teichmann, Brian Mujati, Adrian Garvey, Tendai Mtawarira, Bobby Skinstad, Tonderai Chavanga and Kennedy Tsimba (all to South Africa), David Pocock (to Australia), David Curtis (to Ireland), Scott Gray, David Denton and Paul Johnstone (to Scotland), Andy Marinos (to Wales) and Edmoore Takaendesa (Germany), to name but a few. The latest block of exiles sees Takudzwa Ngwenya (USA), David Denton (to Scotland), Tendai Mtawarira and Brian Mujati being lured to play for the Springboks. Many others are playing at top levels in New Zealand, South Africa, Wales, England, Scotland, Ireland and across Europe.
Their Test match record against all nations, updated to 18 July 2012, is as follows:
|Nation||Games||Won||Lost||Drawn||Percentage of wins|
World Cup Record
|World Cup record||World Cup Qualification record|
|1995||Did not qualify||6||3||0||3||169||120|
|2019||To be determined||To be determined|
Players called up to Zimbabwe's 2015 Africa Cup squad.
Head Coach: Cyprian Mandenge
Players who have recently played for the Sables:
- Zimbabwe Rugby Union
- Zimbabwe at the Rugby World Cup
- Zimbabwe national rugby union team (sevens)
- Africa Cup