Namibia and Kenya will play off for a spot at next year’s Rugby World Cup after securing their places in Sunday’s final of the Rugby Africa Cup.
Namibia strolled past Zimbabwe 34-19 in their semi-final in France on Wednesday, ending the Sables’ dream of a third World Cup final appearance and first since 1991.
It was a much tighter affair for Kenya in their last-four match, as the Simbas edged past Algeria 36-33 in Marseille, also on Wednesday.
“The result means a great deal,” Kenya coach Paul Odera, whose side are bidding to reach a maiden finals, told BBC Sport Africa.
“The type of match it was made it even more special – playing on foreign soil and in front of a large Algerian fan base.”
The north Africans are ranked 90th in the world, 49 placed below Kenya, but 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 scores to leave the match 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 to set up a nervous finish.
“Test matches have such fine margins and the boys fought right up to the end,” Odera said.
“Algeria pushed us all the way so if they can continue building it means we are going to have another strong African country in rugby. The more countries we have that are competitive, the better it is for rugby on the continent.”
The winners of Sunday’s final will line up alongside hosts France, three-time champions New Zealand, Italy and Uruguay in Pool A next year.
‘No fear’ for Kenya in final
Namibia proved too strong for Zimbabwe at Stade Maurice David in Aix-en-Provence, racking up a 13th consecutive win against the Sables.
They are heavy favourites for the Rugby Africa Cup final as they aim for a seventh successive World Cup finals appearance.
Kenya, meanwhile, are aiming for a first but Odera says his side have “no fear” against a side ranked 24th in the world, nine places above them.
“There is great respect of course because they have a lot of accuracy, good players and are well-conditioned,” he added.
“We have got to be clinical at the breakdown and give away less penalties, particularly in areas where Namibia can get territorial position and use their very effective maul. We need to stay in the contest for 80 minutes.”
Although the Rugby Africa Cup winners will be guaranteed a ticket to France 2023, Sunday’s losers will have another chance to get to the tournament.
The runners-up in Aix-en-Provence will progress to a four-nation intercontinental knock-out in November for the final qualifying place at the World Cup.