Sables captain Denford Mutamangira has hailed former Springboks coach Peter de Villiers for instilling a new sense of self-belief in the Zimbabwe senior rugby squad as they prepare for next month's Rugby Africa Gold Cup, which doubles as the qualifiers for the 2018 Rugby World Cup qualifiers.
The South African tactician recently held his first training camp with his players at Falcon College in Esigodini, where Mutamangira believes his methods left a positive impression on most of the players.
"He's not just a coach; he's also become a mentor to most if not all the players, which I believe is the best relationship a player can have with a coach," Mutamangira told Standardsport in an interview yesterday.
"He is a strong believer of changing people's lives and changing the players' mindsets, which I think he has done well in that aspect. He's managed to change a lot of the guys' mindsets by motivating them to be the best they can be on the field of play, which is a very positive thing."
He said: "His influence has certainly changed our approach to our game and how we prepare for matches. For instance, he's made us aware of how important it is to win those small battles on the field, how to read the opponents by looking at what they're doing and how we can counter that and come out on top."
Coach de Villiers and his men will today leave the country for a week-long tour of South Arica during which they will play three games against Select sides in Pretoria ahead of their Africa Gold Cup opener against Morocco at Harare Sports Club on June 16.
"Our preparations have certainly been much better than the previous years in the sense that we have managed to train together for an extended period and also played two matches," Mutamangira said.
"We will have two more matches in Pretoria and that definitely gives us the confidence in the new patterns and the game plan the coach is trying to implement. The more we play together as a team, the more we will gel together and I believe we will continue to get better."
Sables provisional squad: Tapfuma Parirenyatwa, David Makanda, Connor Pritchard, Fortunate Chipendu, Brian Nyaude, Farai Mudariki, Denford Mutamangira, Matthew Mandioma, Gabriel Sipapate, Kudakwashe Nyamufaringa, Jannie Stander, Johan Stander, Biselele Tshamala, Njabulo Ndlovu, Kevin Nqindi, Lawrence Cleminson, Michael Botha, Shingirai Katsvere, Takudzwa Mandiwanza, Kudzai Mashawi, Brendon Mandivenga, Mathew Macnab, Lenience Tambwera, Hilton Mudariki, Peter du Toit, Ernest Mudzengerere, Ngoni Chibuwe, Dylan Baptista, Ziyanda Edmond Khupe, Riaan O'Neill, Kuziva Kazembe, Takudzwa Kumadiro.