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XINHUA NEWS SERVICE REPORTS FROM THE AFRICAN CONTINENT

 
Six teams to stake claim to Africa Gold
Cup rugby 15s tourney, World Cup tickets

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- The hunt for the two tickets to the rugby 15s World Cup will start in earnest this weekend as teams line up for the Africa Gold Cup.

Six countries: Kenya, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Tunisia, Morocco and Uganda are battling it out for the two tickets in the campaign starting Saturday up to September.

On Saturday, there will be two on the cards as Zimbabwe get the campaign underway with a clash at home in Harare against Morocco while champions Namibia host Uganda.

“This year’s competition is of great significance to all six teams competing in the top tier of African test rugby as the overall winner earns direct qualification to the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan in addition to being crowned champions of Africa,” said Abdelaziz Bougja on Wednesday.

“The competition runner up will proceed to play a repechage tournament later in the year against sides from the Americas, Europe and Asia for the final slot in Japan,” he added.

Kenya, champions in 2011 and 2013, enter the fray with an away fixture against Morocco on June 23, while Namibia play a second match against Tunisia. Kenya will then meet Zimbabwe in Nairobi on June 30 as Namibia play Morocco.

The first round of matches end with Kenya taking on Uganda in Nairobi in June and July. The match will also double as the return leg for the regional Elgon Cup where Kenya hold a slim lead of 31-16 against their East African neighbors.

In the Gold Cup, the curtains fall on the competition on Aug. 18 with all six teams involved in action.

Zimbabwe, Africa’s representatives at the first two editions of the Rugby World Cup in 1987 and 1991, have enlisted the services of former Springbok head coach Peter de Villiers to lead their quest for a return to the world stage for the first time in close to three decades.

Namibia, winners of the last four Gold Cups in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017 will be out to again assert their dominance on the African continent and add to their uninterrupted streak of five Rugby World Cup appearances in 1999, 2003, 2007, 2011 and 2015.

Kenya, who came agonizingly close to qualifying for the 2015 Rugby World Cup, have enlisted the services of New Zealanders Ian Snook and Murray Roulston as they look to emulate their sevens counterparts by representing Africa on the global stage.

Uganda, Tunisia and Morocco too will be leaving nothing to chance and will be out to upset the established order during this year’s competition.

           

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