Have the Tigers lost aura of invincibility?

HARARE - Inconsistency seems to be the new cancer that has hit ailing Zimbabwean schoolboy rugby giants Prince Edward.

The glamour boys of schools rugby in this country have a proud history for the better part of 100 years, having churned out such legendary players as Ian Robertson, Tonderai Chavhanga, Piet Benade to name but just a few.

The current state of affairs at the school brings tears to those who had the privilege to witness the glory days of the Tigers as a schoolboy and fan of the team, this writer included.

Ex-Tigers added their voice on the team’s current dismal performances which saw them slumping to a home 10-7 defeat to St John’s College on Saturday, hard on the heels of last weekend’s 42-18 demolition by bitter rivals St George’s College, the biggest margin of defeat in the two teams’ century old rivalry.

2006 captain Tichafara Makwanya, now one of the most experienced players in Zimbabwe’s current national team, feels the team lacks depth.

 “The talent is definitely there, but they have a poor scrum and shops line-out,” says the Old Hararians flyhalf and skipper.

“Now it seems every one known they will maul at every line. Every team is prepared to counter it. They seem to be struggling for combinations hence they has been too much chopping and changing.”

Lock Takunda Mhonda, who captained the Tigers for two years in 2004 and 2005, shares his sentiments on the team’s decline: “I think the mental preparation for these kids is not been properly done. There is a certain connection that’s needed between players and technical team for a team to be successful. If you look at the class of 1999 which was mentored by Ian Robertson and Patrick Gumunyu, that side had the right formula to psychologically prepare a team, hence results spoke for themselves. During my playing days in 2004-2005 under the guidance Godwin Murambiwa and Gumunyu, it was the same. That connection seems to be lacking with the current technical team and players.”

Indeed, the current crop of Tigers seems to lack that passion of yesteryear, that extra determination and willpower to go that extra mile, which has been the hallmark of different PE sides of the past.

Traditionally, PE’s mainstay has been their backline, known to be strong in broken play. They like to play an expensive game of running rugby. The class of 2013 plays completely the opposite and seems to go against tradition. This season, their backline has rarely seen the ball on offence.

With the number of quality backs the Tigers possess, you sometimes wonder why they aren’t playing to that strength, opting instead to use forward play.  This has of course has not worked as the Tigers lack size and aggression in that department.

In their defeat to Saints, they tended to keep it tight around the fringes and use forward play a lot against a much bigger and heavier pack which deeply exposed them. They were bullied at most breakdown and scrums, were they lost a few tight head balls.

The also paid the prize for the penalties they conceded at rucks.

Their line out was one dimensional and lacked variations. Whenever they set a rolling maul, St Saints’ forwards effortlessly stopped it.

The Tigers defence is also something that needs urgent attention. They have been guilty of missing a lot of tackles in their recent games and have leaked quite a number of soft tries.

With five games left in their season, it will be interesting to see if they can stop the decay. - Brian Matamba

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