Namibia will represent Africa in the World Rugby U20 Trophy for the fifth successive year after beating Zimbabwe 42-29 in the final of the Rugby Africa U19 Championship in Windhoek on Saturday.
The Namibians, who booked their place in the final with an emphatic 64-0 defeat of Tunisia on Wednesday, had made the perfect start with tries from centre Alistair Miller and scrum-half Moranzel Strauss, but keen to attack at every opportunity it was Zimbabwe who led 17-14 at half-time after tries from flanker Zvikomoborero and full-back Shingirayi Katsvere, together with Russel Dinha's penalty.
Further tries from second-row Adriaan Ludick and full-back Chad Plato had Namibia in control at 28-17 early in the second half, but once again Zimbabwe fought back, tries from centre Dinha and fly-half Tapiwa Malenga edging the visitors ahead 29-28.
There was to be one final twist, though, with replacements Sam Kuvare and Snyman van der Walt wrapping up victory for a strong-finishing Namibia.
"For about 60 minutes of that match Zimbabwe really threw everything at us and it's definitely evident that rugby in Africa is growing," insisted Namibia coach Roger Thompson. "Rugby in Africa is alive and this exciting match today was a wonderful advertisement for rugby in Africa.
"We have huge respect for Zimbabwe and we knew it was going to be a tough match. When we were behind at half-time we knew we had to come out and put more structure into our game and focus on what we can do well."
Exciting times for Namibia
Kenya bounced back from their heart-breaking 27-26 loss to Zimbabwe on day one with a 24-17 victory over Tunisia to finish third and retain their place in Division A for next year, replacement Stanley Isogol's try on the stroke of full-time the difference between the sides.
Division B was split into two tournaments with Morocco tackling Senegal twice in Casablanca and Madasgascar welcoming Uganda to Antananarivo for two matches. Senegal won their series 22-12 and 12-8, while Madagascar ran out 37-6 and 48-0 winners over Uganda and will replace Tunisia in Division A.
Namibia, who recorded their best ever finish of fourth in the 2016 edition of the U20 Trophy in Zimbabwe, will take their place in the eight-team event alongside Japan, the side relegated after finishing last in the World Rugby U20 Championship 2016 in Manchester.
The hosts of the 10th edition of this age-grade tournament will be announced later in the year with regional qualifiers to fill the remainder of the places.
"For the past five years it has been exciting times for Namibia," added Thompson. "One challenge is always to get the boys together and get a decent preparation block in place before we get on the plane for that World Rugby U20 Trophy and obviously that will be a massive challenge.
"We will try and do better - this year we came fourth overall, so we are not setting our expectations too high but I know if we can double our preparation time we can get decent results."
Photo credit: The Namibian
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