The Nigerian rugby national team, the Black Stallions, have arrived in Antannarivo, Madagascar for the final elimination match of the Rugby Africa Cup 2020 qualifier against Madagascar, holding at the Mahamasima Stadium on Sunday. And the Nigerian team is expected to give its best to earn the ticket for next year’s Africa Cup.
According to the Nigeria Rugby Football Federation (NRFF), the game, which is important for both teams, will also give Nigeria the chance to qualify for the 2023 Rugby World Cup if the Black Stallions is able to secure the 2020 African Cup ticket and emerge tops in the competition next year.
The Stallions, who have been training hard under the supervision of coach Bronson Weir at the National Stadium, Surulere in the past one week, has expressed optimism that the team will get victory in Madagascar.
“We’re expecting a partisan home crowd in Antananarivo with around 30,000 noisy fans. We will have to bring our A-game and show a more intense defence than we did when they put 50 points over us in a 7s game in Johannesburg recently,” said Dale Coker, the team director.
President of the Nigeria Rugby Football Federation (NRFF), Kelechukwu Mbagwu, said that playing against a big team like Madagascar will give the Black Stallions more experience.
“We have a lot to prove. It will be good to get some payback and pride back. It’s going to be a big game for us. We’re in building phase in Nigeria rugby, still developing our pool of home-based players in our three regional leagues. We need to play international matches and keep testing ourselves against bigger, stronger and better opposition so our guys can get used to playing at a higher level consistently,” he submitted.
With Madagascar occupying 51st position on World Rugby’s ranking, 19 points above Nigeria, all the pressure will be on the home team.Coach Madagascar, Philippe Canitrot, underlines the importance of winning the match: “A new adventure starts. All the teams are dreaming of the World Cup. My team is prepared for this match with concentration and humbleness. We are ready for the challenge Nigeria will pose to us and we are poised for the game,’’ he said. Players in the Nigerian list include Monday Omoragieva, John Kura, Jeremiah Peters, Azeez Ladipo, David Kazeem, Tunde Abdulganiyu, Christian Ogar, Emeka Chukwudi, ISA Omale, NUHU Ibrahim, Joshua Effiong Etim, Abrakson Jude, Onome Richard Alex and Surai Ibrahim.