Mandenge takes positives from Sables defeats

HARARE - Zimbabwe rugby team assistant coach Cyprian Mandenge has taken some positives from the Sables’ recent test defeats to Namibia and Spain, saying the experimental team which played in last week’s Windhoek Lager Tri-Nation gave a good account of itself.

Mandenge, who took charge of the team in the absence of head coach Brendan Dawson, said the youthful Sables outfit had opportunities to win both games, a sign that a full-strength Sables can fancy its chances in future against sides of Namibia and Spain’s quality.  
 
The former Harare Sport Club coach said the big jump from playing such sides as Kenya and Uganda in the Victoria Cup to playing competitive outfits like Namibia and Spain might have also affected the team.

“When we first played in the Victoria Cup in 2010, we lost our all games to Kenya and Uganda because we had just come from playing teams like Botswana and Zambia, which was a big leap in itself,” Mandenge told the Daily News yesterday.

“When we got into the groove, we started beating them convincingly home and away. So we will eventually get it right, coming from where we are coming from, we can take some positives.”

While admitting that results against sides like Namibia and Spain offer a more accurate benchmark, Mandenge refused to accept that these two were superior to the Sables.

“There is no difference, the only difference is the professionalism,” he said. “Most of their players play rugby for a living.

“Also bear in mind that we took a lot of rookies to Namibia. But even with the rookies, with fewer mistakes, we could have won.

“Against Namibia we couldn’t convert. Statistics we got from match analysts showed that we dominated them in every department. We just couldn’t take our chances.

“Against Spain we allowed them to score easy tries, under the posts and push over tries. We lost because of inexperience.”

Looking ahead to next year, Mandenge called upon the Zimbabwe Rugby Union to arrange more game time for the Sables against competitive opposition to keep the team in shape in its bid to qualify for the 2015 World Cup.

“Everything hinges on money. If we had money, I would like to see us playing South African provincial sides in a league, even against the “B” sides.

“We also need to set up a Zimbabwe “A” side which will then play in the Victoria Cup to widen our selection base.”

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