The third of the regional qualification processes to get underway was the Africa zone in March 2005 with six teams split into northern and southern pools, the top side in each to meet in a two-legged playoff with the winners progressing to Round 1B.
Senegal claimed top spot in the northern pool with victories over Nigeria 46-6 and Cameroon 6-0, the latter being the fewest number of points scored in any of the 191 matches in the Rugby World Cup 2007 qualifying process.
They were joined by Zambia in the playoff, although only on the rule that they had scored more points over the two matches played and had beaten Botswana 28-24 after all three nations won one match, Zambia and Botswana with an identical point differential.
Senegal recovered from 14-13 down at half time to win their home leg 22-14 with fly half Steeve (CORR) Sargos kicking 17 points. A week later in Lusaka, a full house from Sargos saw Senegal again come from behind to win 13-6 and progress to the next stage.
Round 1B saw Zimbabwe, the Ivory Coast, Kenya, Madagascar and Uganda enter the fray, the teams again separated into two Pools – A and B – with the winners qualifying automatically for the next round, the runners up meeting in another playoff to join them.
Zimbabwe and the Ivory Coast, both former Rugby World Cup qualifiers in 1991 and 1995 respectively, ended Senegal’s participation with victories before meeting in Abidjan to determine who would top Pool A and so avoid the playoff.
A 33-3 victory for the home side forced Zimbabwe into the playoff against Pool B runners up Uganda, the top spot going to Kenya after they beat Uganda 8-5 and were held to a 24-24 draw by Madagascar in Nairobi.
Both sides won their home leg, but Uganda progressed 36-31 on aggregate to Round 2 where Tunisia, Morocco and Namibia – veterans of the last two Rugby World Cups – entered to swell the number of nations involved in the Africa zone qualifiers to 14.
Perfect start for Namibia
Namibia enjoyed the perfect start in Pool A with an 82-12 defeat of Kenya in Windhoek, the 12-try loss resulting in a change of Kenyan coach with Manuel Okoth appointed in time for the visit of Tunisia and a return to winning ways with a 25-21 victory.
The Pool, though, was blown wide open with Kenya’s first ever win over Namibia – 30-26 in Nairobi – sandwiched between two victories at home for Tunisia, giving them the edge going into the final match against Namibia in October 2006.
However it was Namibia who made home advantage count to triumph 23-15 and progress to the Africa zone playoff final with the prize of a place at Rugby World Cup 2007 awaiting the winner of a two-legged affair with the top side in Pool B.
That turned out to be Morocco after they beat Uganda home and away, drew away to the Ivory Coast and then beat them 23-7 in the final match in Casablanca. They certainly didn’t have it all their own way in Uganda, though, triumphing only 5-3 in a tense match.
Chester breathes life into Cranes
This was in stark contrast to a comfortable 36-3 win in Casablanca and Uganda’s rejuvenation could be attributed to the arrival of former Springbok wing Chester Williams on secondment as their Technical Director and his work on the basics.
Uganda rewarded his efforts with a 32-7 defeat of the Ivory Coast in Kampala in July 2006, former boxer Robert Seguya starring in his new role of scrum half as confidence soared in the team who had never before reached this stage in the qualification process.
The question remained though whether it would be Namibia or Morocco claming the place in Pool D alongside host nation France, Argentina, Ireland and Georgia. Even for the loser, the World Cup dream was still alive with entry into the Répechage.
Namibia ultimately came out on top, winning the first leg 25-7 at home and then triumphing 27-8 in Casablanca with centre Melrick Africa among their try scorers. Morocco therefore had to settle for a meeting with Portugal in the Répechage.