Kenya will play Namibia in Aix-en-Provence on Sunday for a place at Rugby World Cup 2023 following two intense Rugby Africa Cup 2022 semi-finals in the south of France.
In the first of the last-four matches on Wednesday, Kenya edged Algeria 36-33 before Namibia claimed a 34-19 victory against Zimbabwe that leaves the Welwitschias just 80 minutes from a seventh successive Rugby World Cup.
Whoever emerges victorious at Stade Maurice David on Sunday will book their return to France next year and take their place as Africa 1 in Pool A, alongside the hosts, New Zealand, Italy and Uruguay.
The RWC 2023 dream will not be over for the team that loses the final, as the Rugby Africa Cup 2022 runners-up will contest the Final Qualification Tournament.
Simbas end Algeria’s run
However, there will be no second chance for Algeria, who slipped to a narrow defeat to Kenya in Marseille.
Algeria had been ranked 90th in the World Rugby Men’s Rankings powered by Capgemini ahead of this year’s Rugby Africa Cup and were 49 places below their opponents at kick-off.
The north Africans started brightly and scored the first try of the match through Marvyn Youcef.
Kenya responded with a converted try of their own, and the teams subsequently traded touch downs to leave the score level at 21-21 early in the second half.
From there, the Simbas twice pulled 10 points clear, at 31-21 and 36-26, before a late penalty try for Algeria cut the deficit to three and set up a nervous finish.
In the end, Kenya won a penalty with time elapsed that halted any Algerian momentum and maintained the Simbas’ hopes of qualifying for a first Rugby World Cup.
Namibia 80 minutes from RWC return
The Simbas will play Namibia in Sunday’s final, after the Welwitschias proved too strong for Zimbabwe, racking up a 13th consecutive win against the Sables.
Namibia had not lost to Zimbabwe since 2001 and led 14-5 at half-time in Aix-en-Provence, before stretching that advantage to 24-5 with a little more than 20 minutes to go.
Zimbabwe gave themselves hope with a try that cut the deficit to 12 points but they never got within a score and by the time they crossed the whitewash for a third time, it was nothing more than a consolation.
Namibia will return to Stade Maurice David on Sunday hoping to secure their passage to a seventh Rugby World Cup.