Botswana and Mauritius made a winning start to their Rugby World Cup 2015 qualification process on Saturday, beating Zambia 23-15 and Nigeria 26-22 respectively at the University of Botswana in Gaborone.
The fixtures for the Africa Cup Division 1C had to be revised after Cameroon’s withdrawal reduced the tournament to five teams, meaning that only five – and not nine – matches will determine the champion, who is promoted to Division 1B and stays alive in the RWC 2015 qualifying process.
Mauritius and Nigeria got the tournament underway in the hot conditions with the former establishing a 17-3 lead at half time after tries from centre Erin Wichelagesse and scrum half Jean Nonjocchio and the boot of full back Robert Boulle.
Boulle extended that with a 48th minute penalty but Nigeria refused to give up and cut the final margin to four points after flanker Ejike Uzoigwe, hooker Adedoyin Layade and centre and captain David Akinuni all crossed the Mauritius try-line.
Nigeria must now regroup to face top seeds and one of the five African nations to have played on the Rugby World Cup stage, the Ivory Coast on Wednesday. Mauritius are not in action again until Saturday, when they face hosts Botswana.
In the day’s other match it took Botswana 24 minutes to open the scoring against Zambia, a side ranked seven places above them in the IRB World Rankings, but tries from second row Munya Mhonda and centre Jerome Alabu gave the hosts a 15-3 half-time lead.
That grew to 23-3 with flanker Batsile Kabo’s try in the 53rd minute, but rather than Botswana piling on the points it was actually Zambia who finished the strongest with fly half Tshoganetso Katse and number 8 Molibi Maphanyane scoring tries to make the final score more respectable.
Botswana’s victory over the higher ranked Zambia has resulted in a four-place climb to 77th and means they now sit only four tenths behind their opponents, who have fallen two places to 76th as a result of the defeat.
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The Division 1C champion will replace Morocco in Division 1B next year when only the top two tiers of the Africa Cup will double as RWC 2015 qualifiers. The Division 1B winner in 2013 earns promotion to the top tier, from which the 2014 champions will qualify for RWC 2015 as Africa 1.
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