ZRU breaks silence

HARARE - The Zimbabwe Rugby Union (ZRU) has responded to widespread criticism over the slow pace of 2015 World Cup qualifiers preparations by announcing the Sables will tour South Africa in June in addition to three proposed home tests against an unconfirmed European team.

The Sables will play in a quadrangular series in South Africa in the final build-up for the African Zone qualification tournament in Madagascar.

The Sables will travel South Africa from May 31 to June 9 to take on Limpopo Blue Bulls, a Bulls Development XV and Valke.

A European side will then tour here afterwards for three international matches before the Sables leave for Madagascar.

Between now and June, selected players will continue working out at the Innovative High Performance Centre in Harare.

“The players have been at the Innovate High Performance Centre since September 13 last year, that programme continues on a weekly basis,” said ZRU marketing consultant David Crouch during a press briefing at the union’s headquarters yesterday.

At a function those gathered expected ZRU to announce a long-promised sponsorship deal for the Sables, the union instead unveiled a partnership deal between the national Sevens team and African Sun.

Despite years of failure to gain IRB core member status, it is the Cheetahs who continue to get the lion’s share of attention from the ZRU.

Crouch, however, denied that ZRU had neglected World Cup qualification preparations.

“Our director of rugby (Liam Middleton) and his coaching team are in direct contact with players and they have also been monitoring the progress of players in Europe,” added Crouch.

Asked how Zimbabwe’s World Cup preparations are measured to those of rivals Namibia and Kenya, Crouch replied:

“Our programme is very similar to that of Namibia and how we know that is because we were with their executive last week. We couldn’t compete in the Vodacom Cup. It is very demanding on resources and obviously those are resources we don’t have.”

On the Cheetahs, Crouch said:  “The Cheetahs play on national stage. They play at two IRB events. And like we have done with African Sun, we have to marry corporate objectives with what platforms we can provide.

“If you look at our Sables programme, we have a regional reach at this stage we don’t have a global reach, so it is difficult to get partners from that extent.”

ZRU president John Falkenberg added that the union was in the process of securing sponsorship for the Sables.

“The union is trying everything it can to find those resources because once we qualify for the World Cup we open sponsorship avenues. XVs is the main game for the union.”

The union’s vice-president, Colleen De Jonge, said touring South Africa was the best preparation the Sables could get before the World Cup qualifiers.

“For us to travel to South Africa for a tournament of three matches and then to play three matches here although it doesn’t sound very exciting is probably more preparation that we have ever had,” she said.

“Going forward, not just us but African Rugby Unions are cognisant that we all need more game time in order to raise the level of the game and rugby development in Africa.”

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