Sables: Time to reconcile

HARARE – On some rare occasions, failure can be viewed in positive light.

One such occasion is Zimbabwe’s defeat to Kenya on Sunday in the Africa Cup final, which saw the Sables relinquish their continental title to the East African side, who were thoroughly prepared and very professional in their approach in the countdown to the tournament.

That outcome from Madagascar on Sunday, where Zimbabwe thankfully did just enough to stay in contention for a 2015 World Cup place courtesy of a 38-18 win over the hosts in the semifinals, should bring the entire Zimbabwean rugby fraternity face-to-face with an accurate account of the state of affairs, bringing inflated egos on both warring sides back down to reality.

I say the outcome was “positive” because winning the tournament without the so-called “rebel players”, who boycotted the tour (or where they sacked?) would have sent wrong signals and created a false sense of excitement that these players are spent forces the nation can do without.

And to go the extent of arguing that of the revolting players, only Gardner Nechironga and Tangai Nemadire were good enough on match day to make the starting XV is a far-fetched notion said in the heat of the moment. 

Costa Dinha is a fierce competitor and patriot who, perhaps, is unfortunately always caught up by his own fighting spirit for a man of his experience and exposure.

But all the same he is, at 34, still a player you cannot so easily discard for a country and union which should be serious about utilising the vast experience of its core of senior players. 

Then there is a guy like Cleopas Makotose, whose contempt for anything less that the standards he always set himself is something I have greatly admired over the years.

Buggered shoulder and all, I do not doubt the former skipper would have put body on the line and make a difference in Madagascar because the Cleo I know is a warrior, a helluva fighter, a man you can go to war with.

It will be naïve as well to underestimate the contribution and bags of experience such men as Tichaona Chidongo and Tichafara Makwanya have. We will be lying to ourselves.

That is a very big factor. The other factor is that retaining our title in Madagascar would have been detrimental in that it would have paled player issues and grievances into insignificance, giving an impression that issues raised by the dissenting players before the trip were baseless and unfounded.  

I was chatting to a friend over the weekend, a very senior and well-respected member of the Sables who I think still thoroughly deserves his place in the side.

Quite a sensible guy, but he was steadfast in his conviction that the player action before an important World Cup qualifier was not ill-timed and bent on destabilising the team.

Players always raised issues before games, he said, but would go on to play under protest and still win.

Because the team would have won, those issues would simply be swept under the carpet, only to rear their ugly head again ahead of the next international.

This player, who shall remain anonymous, applauded his colleagues for taking a principled stand, pointing out that while their action might not directly benefit them but a future generation, it has brought genuine issues to the surface and the ZRU cannot continue to ignore them anymore if they take 2015 World Cup qualification seriously.

I agreed entirely, but what I did not agree to was his strong views, said good-naturedly though, that the boys who agreed to travel to Madagascar were traitors who in a war situation would be put in front of a firing squad.

Someone had to fulfil the matches and keep the World Cup hopes of a nation alive, and bravo to those 23 brave players and their technical staff; Brendan Dawson, Cyprian Mandenge, Losson Mtongwiza, Abigail Mnikwa and Sables committee chairperson Bongai Zamchiya.

Hooray to John Falkenburg and his ZRU executive as well. Brilliant effort from all involved.

The task now is to frankly address the wide range of issues affecting the Sables in time for the next assignments, in view of the 2015 World Cup.

I would not like to imagine anyone among the dissenting players wished their colleagues in Madagascar the worst in the name of proving a point.

Similarly, I will insist that winning both matches on tour and retaining the title would have been undesirable going forward, so just staying up was what I would call a compromise result, and I regard that as good for Zimbabwean rugby and the Sables.

To Kenya, I say congratulations for winning it! You showed that there is no substitution for good preparations and for that you are worthy champions!

Enjoy your moment in the sun while you can, because it will be the Sables of Zimbabwe making flight bookings to England come 2015!

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