Vultures off to a flyer at the Africa Cup tournament
by Botlhale Koothupile
Botswana’s national rugby football team, the Vultures started their Africa Cup Division 1C tournament campaign on a brilliant note, beating Zambia 23 – 15 in a closely fought encounter at the University of Botswana (UB) Stadium.
In a match fought at the front, it was the Vultures’ front pack that had a slight edge over their Zambian counterparts, winning many of the matchups between the two, with Lempaletse Ngaka proving difficult for the Zambians to deal with.
Despite that, it was Zambia who looked likely to break the deadlock, with the team’s lively loose forward Danny Sakala tormenting the Vultures defence throughout the match. It was, however, the Vultures who had a clear chance of scoring when right winger Edward Oosthuizen burst through the touch line only to be thwarted by the Zambian defence. The winger had a chance to make amends a few moments later with a penalty kick after an infringement by the Zambian players but the ever reliable player skewed wide. With the realization of their advantage at the front, the Vultures played the maul and pushed the Zambians into the last third but were badly lacking in transition, losing the ball when it mattered the most.
It was finally the Vultures who broke the deadlock in the 23rd minute after the Zambian defence were adjudged to have fouled Botswana’s loose head, Tyrone Warburton, in the final third.
Oosthuizen easily converted the resultant penalty to give Botswana a 3 – 0 lead. The Zambians, however, leveled the match in the 30th minute through fly half Ben Mukwamba’s drop goal. The Vultures response was, however, swift, with the team scoring a well crafted try two minutes later, courtesy of Ngaka.
En route to scoring the try, the Vultures showed great composure and were good in transition, moving the ball from the left to the centre before Ngaka powered to ground the ball. Oosthuizen scored the resultant conversion to give Botswana a 10 – 3 lead.
The hosts then produced another well crafted try in the last minute of first half to increase their lead going into the break. As with the first try, the try was a beauty, with the country proving good in transition. Having won the ball from the left, the Vultures moved the ball brilliantly to fly half Tshoganetso “Shakes” Katse in the centre.
The speedster then ran through the Zambian defence before passing a blinder of a pass to Jerome Malabu to ground the ball behind the Zambian posts. Oosthuizen, however, failed to score the resultant conversion and Botswana went into the break with a 15 – 3 lead over the Zambians.
From the break, it was the Vultures who started the brighter of the two and could have increased their lead early on but Oosthuizen failed to convert a penalty.
Eager to turn on the pace and pressure, the Vultures brought in James Harris for left winger Biki Mawela and the impact was immediate. The winger took the Zambians on from the onset and was high tackled by the Zambians. From the resultant penalty, Oosthuizen converted to give Botswana an 18 – 3 lead. Four minute later in the 52nd minute, the Vultures scored their last try of the day, courtesy of open side flanker, Ketshidile Matenanga, to take the score to 23 - 3.
The try was a show of Botswana’s dominance in the maul as the Vultures pushed the Zambians into the score line where Matenanga grounded the ball. With the game looking to go Botswana’s way, the Zambians reduced the deficit to 23 - 8 with a try in the 66th minute with Mukwamba failing to score the resultant conversion.
The try gave hope to the Zambians and they pressed forward but were thwarted by the brilliance of the Vultures defence. The Zambians, however, persevered and were rewarded in the last minute of the game when Sakala scored a try, with the resultant conversion scored by Mukwamba to reduce Botswana’s lead to 23 – 15 by the end of the game.
In an earlier game of the tournament, Mauritius defeated Nigeria 26 – 22. Despite their smaller physical presence compared to the Nigerians, the Mauritians were a picture of confidence and bravery as they gallantly took the battle to the Nigerians.