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Ledesma braced for forward battle with Boks in Rugby Championship opener
12 August 2021, 6:13 PM

Argentina coach Mario Ledesma has chosen Marcos Kremer at lock as he looks to go toe-to-toe with South Africa’s powerful forwards in their Rugby Championship opener against the world champion Springboks in Nelson Mandela Bay on Saturday.

Ledesma believes the forward battle will be crucial and has opted for the power of Kremer alongside Guido Petti in the second row, leaving Tomas Lavanini and Matias Alemanno among the replacements.

“There is a saying in Argentina that the forwards win the game and the backs decide by how much. The forward battle will be crucial, we are confident about our pack and I am excited to see the challenge on the field,” Ledesma told reporters in naming his side on Thursday.

The front row of the scrum is made up of Tetaz Chaparro and Gomez Kodela, with captain Julian Montoya at hooker. Flankers Facundo Isa and Pablo Matera join number eight Rodrigo Bruni in the back row.

Felipe Ezcurra has been chosen at scrumhalf in the place of the injured Tomas Cubelli, getting the nod ahead of Gonzalo Bertranou, who is on the bench. Ezcurra will partner the vastly experienced Nicolas Sanchez in the half-back pairing.

Matias Moroni is on the wing along with Bautista Delguy, with Santiago Carreras at full-back. Santiago Chocobares and Jereonimo De La Fuente make up the centre pairing.

Uncapped prop Carlos Muzzio has been named on the bench, along with American-born wing Sebastian Cancelliere, who last played for The Pumas against South Africa in the 24-18 loss in Pretoria in August 2019.

Ledesma is expecting a tough and physical contest, adding that suggestions that the Boks play ‘boring’ rugby are wide of the mark.

“South Africa is South Africa, they have an identity that is really strong. A team that is world champions and just won the series against the British & Irish Lions,” he said.

“They are doing their thing very well. It is very subjective to talk about what is boring or not.”

Argentina Team:

15-Santiago Carreras, 14-Bautista Delguy, 13-Santiago Chocobares, 12-Jeronimo De La Fuente, 11-Matias Moroni, 10-Nicolas Sanchez, 9-Felipe Ezcurra, 8-Rodrigo Bruni, 7-Facundo Isa, 6-Pablo Matera, 5-Marcos Kremer, 4-Guido Petti, 3-Francisco Gomez Kodela, 2-Julian Montoya (captain), 1-Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro

Replacements: 16-Facundo Bosch, 17-Carlos Muzzio, 18-Santiago Medrano, 19-Tomas Lavanini, 20-Matias Alemanno, 21-Gonzalo Bertranou, 22-Domingo Miotti, 23-Sebastian Cancelliere.

Guinea records West Africa’s first Marburg virus death, WHO says
12 August 2021, 6:05 PM

Health authorities in Guinea have confirmed one death from Marburg virus, a highly infectious hemorrhagic fever similar to Ebola, the World Health Organisation said on Monday.

It marks the first time that the deadly disease has been identified in West Africa. There have been 12 major Marburg outbreaks since 1967, mostly in southern and eastern Africa.

Guinea’s new case was first identified last week, just two months after the country was declared free of Ebola following a brief flare-up earlier this year that killed 12 people.

The patient, who has since succumbed to the illness, first sought treatment at a local clinic before his condition rapidly deteriorated, the WHO statement said.

Analysts at Guinea’s national haemorrhagic fever laboratory and the Institute Pasteur in Senegal later confirmed the Marburg diagnosis.

“The potential for the Marburg virus to spread far and wide means we need to stop it in its tracks,” Matshidiso Moeti, WHO’s Regional Director for Africa, said in the statement.

“We are working with the health authorities to implement a swift response that builds on Guinea’s past experience and expertise in managing Ebola, which is transmitted in a similar way,” Moeti said.

Both the Marburg case and this year’s Ebola cases were detected in Guinea’s Gueckedou district, near the borders with Liberia and Sierra Leone. The first cases of the 2014-2016 Ebola epidemic, the largest in history, also were from the same region in Southeastern Guinea’s forest region.

Marburg case fatality rates have varied from 24% to 88% in past outbreaks depending on virus strain and case management, WHO said, adding that transmission occurs through contact with infected body fluids and tissue. Symptoms include headache, vomiting blood, muscle pains and bleeding through various orifices.

Zambians vote in presidential election seen as too close to call
12 August 2021, 4:42 PM

Zambians were voting for a new leader on Thursday, with long queues pointing to a high turnout in an election showdown between President Edgar Lungu and main opposition rival Hakainde Hichilema that looks too tight to call.

The two rivals, who voted at different stations hours apart, were both confident of winning the vote and the close contest raised the possibility of a run-off.

The electoral agency says it expects to declare a winner within 72 hours after polls close.

Zambia, Africa’s second biggest copper producer, became the continent’s first country during the coronavirus pandemic to default on its sovereign debt in November. Its economy is flagging.

Voters patiently waited in the sun to cast their ballots.

At a polling station in an affluent suburb of the capital Lusaka, crowds cheered “we want change” as Hichilema arrived to vote. The opposition leader blew back kisses to the crowd.

“Everybody must be allowed to vote. I am concerned about the speed,” said Hichilema after he voted.

Opposition UPND party’s presidential candidate Hakainde Hichilema casts his ballot in Lusaka, Zambia. [Reuters] 

Earlier, Lungu was among the first voters at a station in Chawama township in the capital. Wearing a black leather jacket, a white face mask and accompanied by his wife, he waved to a cheering crowd as he left in his motorcade.

“We are winning, otherwise I wouldn’t have been in the race if we were not winning,” Lungu told reporters.

Zambian President Edgar Lungu greets supporters after casting his ballot in Lusaka [Reuters] 

Some voters walked to polling stations with chairs, a Reuters journalist said, while others shared pictures of long queues on Twitter.

In the Kabwata suburb of Lusaka, first time voter Ben Mulenga, 19, braved the early morning cold and arrived two and a half hours before voting started because he anticipated long queues.

“The things that are happening in our country, including the bad state of the economy and the high levels of unemployment, need to be addressed,” said Mulenga, a student at the University of Zambia.

YOUNG VOTERS

Some 54% of registered voters are 34 or younger, statistics from the Electoral Commission of Zambia (ECZ) show.

That could help Hichilema, who is facing Lungu for the third time and has placed the economy front and centre of his campaign, political analysts said.

Zambia’s economy will be among the continent’s slowest growing economies this year, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates.

“As you can see we are suffering. Financially we are in crisis, definitely I want to make a change,” said Cassidy Yumbe, a 41-year-old driver and father of four as he waited to vote.

Zambia owes in excess of $12 billion to external creditors and spends 30%-40% of its revenues on interest payments on its debt, credit rating firm S&P Global estimates.

In office since 2015, 64-year-old Lungu narrowly defeated Hichilema, the CEO of an accountancy firm before entering politics, in a disputed election the following year.

J.P. Morgan said the outcome of the election could meaningfully shape Zambia‘s medium-term economic outlook as the new president would need to deliver a credible economic reform package acceptable to the IMF and voters.

The President has touted the new road, airport and energy projects he has overseen as laying the groundwork for economic development and growth.

But so far his debt-financed infrastructure splurge has failed to pay economic dividends, and unemployment remains high.

AU’s peacekeeping force in Somalia says investigating civilian deaths
12 August 2021, 4:10 PM

The African Union’s peacekeeping mission in Somalia said it had started investigating reports that civilians were killed during a gunfight between its troops and al Qaeda-linked al Shabaab fighters.

The force, known as the African Union Mission in Somalia (AMISOM), said the incident occurred on Tuesday following an ambush, while its soldiers were on patrol along the Beldamin-Golweyn Forward Operating Base in the Lower Shabelle region.

There was a heavy exchange of gunfire between AMISOM forces and al Shabaab militants before the patrol team seized firearms, rounds of ammunition and mobile phones, it said in a statement late on Wednesday.

“AMISOM has since received reports that civilian lives were lost. To this end, AMISOM has launched a thorough investigation into the reported incident,” it said.

Seven civilians were killed in the incident, a farmer in Golweyn village told Reuters on Thursday, including his brother Omar Hassan who owned a farm in the area, a driver and five other farmers.

“AMISOM deliberately went to the farm and killed them,” he said.

The Islamist al Shabaab group often carries out attacks in its war on Somalia‘s central government. It aims to topple the government and impose its own harsh interpretation of Islamic sharia law.

The African Union peacekeeping mission, which was first deployed in 2007, supports the government against al Shabaab.

Italy and Argentina climb FIFA World Ranking after trophy triumphs
12 August 2021, 3:23 PM

Italy and Argentina have risen to fifth and sixth respectively in the FIFA World Ranking following their triumphs at Euro 2020 and the Copa America, while Belgium remains in top spot.

The Azzurri, who defeated England on penalties in the European Championship final at Wembley last month, climbed two places to fifth.

Argentina moved up two spots to sixth after winning the Copa America final against Brazil, who moved into second place and bumped world champions France into third.

Belgium, who were knocked out by Italy at the quarter-final stage of the Euros, remain the top-ranked international team in the world, while defeated finalists England stay fourth.

The United States moved up 10 places into 10th place after winning the CONCACAF Gold Cup, while Mexico, who they defeated in the final, climbed two places into ninth.

Qatar were the biggest movers, ascending 16 places to reach 42nd spot after reaching the semi-finals of the Gold Cup, equalling their highest-ever ranking.

The next ranking update will be published on September 16.

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