Big year for Zim rugby

rugby_gameJOHANNESBURG - Zimbabwe emerged as one of the highest climbers of the year in the International Rugby Board rankings in 2009, and the highest on the African continent.

According to the 2009 report card released by the rugby mother body at the weekend, The Sables were the most successful team in terms of rankings alongside such rugby minnows as Malaysia among others.

Israel and Bulgaria were not the only nations to enjoy climbs into double figures as both Zimbabwe and Malaysia also climbed 10 places. Zimbabwe are the biggest movers in Africa with their rise to 46th and an improvement of 2.45 rating points, although Senegal also climbed six places to 62nd over the last 12 months, IRB said in a statement from its headquarters in Ireland.

Zimbabwe had a successful year in the sport, culminating in the Under-19 team winning the new Africa Rugby Confederation tournament after convincingly beating defending champions Namibia 39-7 in the final played at the Rugby Football Union of East Africa in August. The victory saw them qualify for the Under-19 World Cup to be held later this year.

Meanwhile, Australia may not have had the most successful of years with only one win – albeit over eventual champions South Africa – in the Tri Nations and then a first loss to Scotland in 27 years during November, but the Wallabies are one of only three sides to remain constant all year, the others being Luxembourg and Finland in the bottom two places in the rankings.

The coveted top spot was occupied by New Zealand at the turn of the year, just as it had been going into 2009. However the All Blacks had slipped to second after suffering the first of three Tri Nations losses to South Africa in late July, ending their 11-month reign as the number one side in the world.

South Africa sat proudly atop the rankings for 16 weeks, following up their series victory over the British & Irish Lions with five wins to lift the Tri Nations title and seemed set to end a successful year in that position. However, defeat by France in Toulouse saw them surrender it to the All Blacks and another loss to Ireland means South Africa now lie 3.08 points behind the top side.

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