Zimbabwe: Sables Outshine Chevrons, Warriors

Senior Sports Reporter

THEY have set about quietly doing their business, in an era when the local sport has been ravaged by the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Zimbabwe senior men's rugby team, the Sables, have somehow found the right chord and rhythm that has cheered the spirits of the nation amid an ocean of disappointment brought by their peers in football and cricket.

Backed by an executive of Aaron Jani, Martin Shone and Losson Mtongwiza, which has been a symbol of organised leadership, the Sables last week sent a bold message that they will not be taking any prisoners in their quest to secure a place at the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France.

The Sables have this month provided the cheer that sport-loving Zimbabweans have been yearning for with comprehensive back-to-back Rugby Africa Cup victories over Burkina Faso at Old Georgians Sports Club.

They provided the silver lining on a dark cloud brought about by the pathetic Warriors showing at the COSAFA Cup in South Africa and the woeful display by the Chevrons in the home series against Bangladesh.

ZIFA are inundated with calls to part ways with their expatriate coach, Zdravko Logarusic, who has managed one win from 12 games. The association has not been spared as part of the problem bedevilling the local football.

As the football constituency ponders on the next move as they look forward to the World Cup qualifiers in September, it is also important to note that the ZRU leadership learnt their lessons well after the Peter De Villiers fiasco and identified qualification for the 2023 World Cup as their main objective. They have roped in the expertise of former national team players in the quest.

So, unlike ZIFA who tend to shun or completely ignore former players, Jani and his executive reached out to Adrian Garvey, Tendai "Beast" Mtawarira, Tonderai Chavhanga and Wallabies legend David Pocock and appointed them Zimbabwe rugby ambassadors.

They have all been playing a role in assisting the Sables in their quest and when you look at the selection panel for the Sables, it has opened the doors to genuinely deserving players and not to smuggle players from some obscure league in the United States or Myanmar.

Zimbabwe Rugby Union chief executive, Sifiso Made, says a number of factors contributed to the current wave of their success.

The Sables managed to come out of nine weeks of camp without any Covid-19 incidents or incidents of indiscipline.

"Being in a bio bubble assisted us a great deal. Everyone was focused and adhering to health regulations to ensure that we did not record any Covid-19 case.

"Even I was not allowed in their bubble.

"The players spending considerable time together, they started to jell and know each other well. Normally players go to work and come to training but now they were focused on rugby," said Made.

The ZRU chief executive believes a vibrant coaching department led by Brendan Dawson played a crucial role.

"Having a good technical team is one of the factors that contributed. We have a vibrant coaching team, a full-time physiotherapist, a doctor on call, just working for the team. So this shows injuries were managed well and instantly.

"Also, buying into the vision of the head coach was critical. There was a unity of purpose," he said.

"Bringing stats on board with GPS equipment to track players when they were in training assisted us in a great way. You would know exactly how a player would have run and made all the movements.

"Friendlies against Zambia was critical. It helped a great deal in selecting the best person for the right position. We had time to analyse and look at their positions," he said.

Made says the executive was supportive while the marketing team that went out to look for money was critical and put icing on the cake.

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