The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: Rugby Blasts Commission

ZIMBABWE rugby coaches and administrators have joined the outcry triggered by the new Sports Commission's directive that requires national team coaches and selectors to have represented the nation in that discipline.

In rugby, most of the coaches in the set-up have not featured for Zimbabwe, including the likes of Sables' assistant coach Cyprian "Supa" Mandenge, Young Sables' coach Nsikelelo "Sykes" Sibanda and Under-18 coach Godwin "Jaws" Murambiwa.

They all never donned the green and white jersey. But it seems there is more to the issue than just donning the national colours and there is a feeling that the underlying push is racism.

While the new directive from Education, Sport, Arts and Culture Minister David Coltart would propel whites, who were not part of the Zimbabwe sporting system during the "Rebel Period" of cricket and tough economic situation, into leadership positions, those who remained in the trenches are feeling hard done.

Rugby coaches and administrators feel that the move is not practical and can only work against the development of sport in the country, as most of the coaches in the system never played for the national teams.

Former Sables and Young Sables coach, Godwin Murambiwa, feels there are a lot negative implications that could be triggered by the move.

"I do not think it's a good idea because it is in no way going to improve Zimbabwe sport and for people like me I feel it is unfair and it's like a slap in the face to those who deserve coaching the national teams.

"I stopped playing rugby after suffering knee injuries and, because I loved the sport, I sacrificed a lot of time and effort educating myself and going to school so I could be a coach. I invested a lot in rugby education and I am not only a coach but an accredited International Rugby Board Level II educator, which means besides coaching, I train the coaches.

"Playing experience helps but it seems like Zimbabwe is the only country in the world that requires former national team players at the expense of educated coaches because that is what sport is all about these days.

"We are no longer leaving in the old days because the rugby is always changing and to cope with such changes you need to be educated in that area as well.

"I am not sure where the advice might have come from but what I know for sure is that I am an International Rugby Board accredited Level II educator and qualify to coach any national team (in the world).

"Certainly this is definitely not the best decision the Sports Commission can come up with and rugby, being a largely voluntary and amateur sport here in Zimbabwe, things will be difficult.

"This is because those who are willing to coach are the same people who did not play at national level," said the Under-18 coach.

Murambiwa has been coaching since he was injured in 1990 and is in the same bracket with the likes of Mandenge and Sibanda, who have international achievements, which the Sports Commission appears ready to ignore.

Just two days ago Brighton Chivandire resigned from coaching to take up a post as director of coaching in the Young Sables and this was followed by the appointment of Sibanda as coach.

But it is the IRB requirement that every national team coach should hold a minimum of an IRB Level II coaching certificate, which could make things interesting.

Right now, the only practising coach who has played for the Sables and holds such qualifications, is Brandon Dawson.

"This thing surely is just meant to push the current black coaches out of their positions and try to benefit the white players who had abandoned sports like cricket and rugby during the times of need," said Mandenge.

"Now that the black administrators, coaches and players managed to hold up the sports in Zimbabwe, is there any need to call back the same people who tried to sabotage the nation?

"The system in our days would not allow us to play for the national team due to skin colour and a lot of those who made it into the national team did not deserve to be in the teams at the expense of the blacks.

"Instead of moving forward with issues on how to develop the game, the Sports Commission are not even looking at helping us but choosing to destroy what is there now."

One such player, who could not feature for the Sables even after proving he was the best prop in the land in the late '80s and early'90s, was Harare Sports Club prop Shepherd Mahufe, who was sidelined for the national team because he was deaf.

He has since joined the arts industry specialising in painting.

"It does not make sense that we are barred from coaching the national teams yet we are Zimbabweans, qualified for that matter, and have proven track records ahead of someone who can wake up tomorrow and declare another nationality.

"Those same white guys can just leave the country and become Irish, British or English but I do not have that choice but I have what it takes to make the sport move forward.

"In cricket the likes of (Steve) Mangongo have been there all the time, through thick and thin they stood by the nation, but it seems there are some classified people who are allowed to just to go and come as they wish," said Mandenge.

Former Sables winger Aaron Jani, who is also the Young Sables chairman, believes that the Sports Commission needed to consult and get a better view from the sporting associations before issuing the directive.

The Harare businessman also feels Zimbabwe rugby does not have the resources and manpower to implement the directive as this will only leave a few people to select, coach and train all the national teams.

"I feel that this was an immature decision and the Sport Commission should have engaged the stakeholders and consulted with the sports association.

"It does not follow that because someone played for the national team they will become a great coach as well, there are some coaches who went to school in order to develop their knowledge of the game.

"There are good coaches in many different sporting disciplines all over the world who never played for the national team but have brought the best out of their players and out of their teams.

"We have, for example Godwin, who had problems with his knees in his playing days, we have Mandenge who is the Sables coach and recently we appointed Sibanda as the Young Sables coach.

"They are all gifted as coaches and they have brought results. Our pool of coaches in Zimbabwe is very small and to have someone who played for the Sables and is a practising coach here is very difficult.

"So this directive needed a lot of debate and review before being implemented, we have limited number of persons to choose from yet we want to have as many numbers as possible to grow the game," said Jani.

Some of the coaches, who have made it without playing for any national team, include current Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer and World Cup winning Springbok coach Jack White.

"Brighton has just stopped coaching, most of the other guys have been out of the system for a long time but the game has been changing a lot and truly most of them are not interested anyway.

"There are a lot of coaches who have done well but have never played at national level, not only in rugby, but in many other sporting disciplines that include football (soccer).

"Cyprian Mandenge and Sykes Sibanda have been around for a long time, they both have IRB Level II coaching certificates and we all know what these men are capable of doing," added Murambiwa.

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