The Herald (Harare)

29 December 2012

Zimbabwe: Mandenge Joins Old Hararians

SABLES' assistant coach, Cyprian "Supa" Mandenge, has crossed the great divide from Harare Sport Club by joining bitter rivals Old Hararians for the 2013 National Rugby League season.

For the greater part of his rugby career - both as a player and coach - Mandenge was based at Harare Sports Club where he has also won the league championship as coach twice (2007 and 2009).

But he has now moved to a new home.

Mandenge was this year inactive at Sportivo as Harare Sports Club have a coach rotation system and he feels that he needs to make use of his coaching talent and moving to the Old Boys could help him to do so.

This year, Sports Club won the league championship under the guidance of Nsikelelo "Sykes" Sibanda and Mandenge feels there is no need to rotate the coaches given that the incumbent had done a good job.

"The number one reason I have moved to Old Hararians is that Sykes and I are at the same level but he won the championship so I feel he should continue and there is no need for me to be in charge next year due to the rotation system.

"I was not active (as a club coach) over the past season and I feel that moving to OH will also help me learn other things as well and I will go where I am needed so long it is for the development of the game.

"I am sure this will also bring in more competition as well in the league and there will be continuity at Sports Club. I always have the Red Lions at heart but I cannot always be at the same place so I am sure coming to Old Hararians will take my coaching experience to the another level," said Mandenge.

The former University of Zimbabwe coach has high expectations in joining the Old Boys and wants to help them regain their former status as one of the dominant teams in local rugby.

"I want to feel that I am part of the Old Boys family, not that I have anything against Sports Club but I could not feel that anymore.

"I felt like I was excess baggage at Sportivo so there was need for me to move where my services were needed.

"I have always admired the spirit at Old Hararians, the spirit that they make you part of the family and I am happy with the role they have given me as head coach.

"I am free to choose my own technical team but I would be happy to work with the guys who were there before me if they are willing to."

Mandenge paid tribute to such local rugby greats like former Cheetahs coach John Ewing, fitness trainer Themba Mliswa and ex-Sables coach and Zimbabwe Rugby Union director of coaching Colin Osborne who helped shape him into the gaffer he is today.

Following a shoulder injury during a Sevens tournament before the turn of the millennium Mandenge decided to go into coaching and attended a workshop conducted by Osborne.

It was from here that he was roped into the Sports Club coaching set-up as a second team coach and started rising.

"I was mainly involved in coaching the second team but when an opening came up at the University of Zimbabwe, Sykes urged me to take up the coaching post in 2003 and I had a two-year plan for Varsity but my stay was cut short."

In his second year as the Varsity coach, his outfit played their best rugby since gaining promotion into the main league as they beat the then Mashonaland Country Districts (now District Dragons) in the league semi-final but went on to lose to Old Hararians in the final.

"It is so unfortunate that after coming second in the league the ugly side of sport politics took over as some people now wanted to be associated with success and I was forced out and that is when I went back to my roots (at Harare Sports Club).

"At first we had thought of moving from Varsity with the players and the technical team so that we would be based at Alex Sports Club but lack of structures at the club made it difficult for us to do so."

Now Mandenge wants to help Old Hararians regain their lost glory as a Zimbabwe rugby giant and boost competition in the domestic league next year.

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