Rugby Africa Cup 2022 semi-final line-up decided in south of France
Algeria, Kenya, Namibia and Zimbabwe will contest the semi-finals on Wednesday as they each target a place at Rugby World Cup 2023.
Algeria coach Ousmane Mané believes the pressure is off his players as they prepare for their Rugby Africa Cup 2022 semi-final against Kenya on Wednesday.
Victory also maintained the team’s hopes of qualifying for a first Rugby World Cup, leaving them just two wins from booking an improbable return to France next year.
Kenya, who will start Wednesday’s semi-final 49 places above Algeria in the rankings, will provide a stern test of Algeria’s RWC 2023 dream. However, having upset Senegal in the last eight, Mané believes his team has nothing to lose at Stade Delort.
.@AlgeriaRugby pull out all the stops and progress to the @RugbyAfrique semi-finals as they beat Senegal!— Rugby World Cup (@rugbyworldcup) July 5, 2022
Watch the highlights from the #RWC2023 qualification game as they beat a team ranked 45 places above them prior to kick off! ⬇️
🎥 Canal+ / France 2023 pic.twitter.com/f8MYo815oU
“The players don't have any pressure,” Mané told World Rugby. “All the players are free now.
“Before there was a lot of pressure for the players, for the first game against Senegal, you know. For tomorrow, for the semi-final, all the players are free.”
Securing their place at RWC 2023 would be an incredible achievement for Algeria, who only played their first test match in 2010.
The North Africans have never played Kenya before, but Mané and his players are under no illusion about the challenge they will face in Marseille on Wednesday.
“Kenya is a big team of Africa,” Mané added. “They have a lot of players who play sevens, the players are very athletic and fast.
“You need to have a good defence, a big scrum and you need to have a little discipline, don't give away too many penalties.
“The team that doesn't [give away] a lot of penalties, is going to win this game. You need to be cold and do those things right.”
In Wednesday’s second semi-final, Zimbabwe will hope to continue their recent good form as they attempt to end Namibia’s hopes of qualifying for a seventh successive Rugby World Cup.
Zimbabwe warmed up for this year’s Rugby Africa Cup with a 30-7 win against the Netherlands and then ran in five tries to beat Ivory Coast 38-11 in the quarter-finals.
However, coach Brendon Dawson knows his side will have to improve if they are to defeat Namibia for the first time since 2001.
Dawson captained his country to that 27-26 win in Bulawayo 21 years ago and was also a member of the last Zimbabwe squad to play at Rugby World Cup, in 1991.
“We want to come back to the World Cup,” Dawson said. “It’s a little bit psychological, I think, with some of the guys.
“But I think the performance against the Netherlands, beating a 26th ranked team and doing well against Ivory Coast and doing well in the last two games that we played in the Currie Cup, shows that the guys can do it.
“They've got the ability, but it just comes down to confidence and I think they've really built on that nicely now.”
What must Zimbabwe do to secure their place in the Rugby Africa Cup final? “We’ve got to make sure that we can play for 80 minutes and play at the same pace and the same tempo that we do for 80 minutes,” Dawson added.
“Obviously, your impact players that come on have got to really lift the standard and make sure that they carry that on through from where we started to where we finish.
“I really believe that if we can maintain that for 80 minutes, I think we're going to be in the pole seat to hopefully win the game.”
Should Zimbabwe win on Wednesday then they would be only 80 minutes away from securing their place in Pool A at RWC 2023, alongside France, New Zealand, Italy and Uruguay.
“It would definitely be special,” Zimbabwe captain Hilton Mudariki said.
“A lot of us have grown up watching the All Blacks, watching France dominate world rugby. So, an opportunity to be on the field playing against some of those guys would be huge.
“We would be very excited and we just need to make sure that we get through the next couple of games.”