Whither Zimbabwean rugby?

HARARE - A meeting of Zimbabwean rugby administrative arms was reportedly held last week to map the way forward for the sport here following the heartbreak of the country’s failure to qualify for next year’s Rugby World Cup in England.

The Sables came so agonisingly close to qualify for their first World Cup in 22 years, a failure which has left the Zimbabwean rugby fraternity disillusioned, with interest in the sport waning to worrying levels.

So close were Zimbabwe of booking a place in England that an extra bonus point try in the 28-10 win over Kenya during the qualification tournament in Madagascar mid this year would have sealed passage to the World Cup ahead of long-time rivals Namibia.

With funding an ever-present problem for Zimbabwean rugby, World Cup qualification would have been the catalyst needed to spark off a new lease of life for the game here in terms of attracting greater sponsorship and boosting public interest towards becoming a truly national sport.

Zimbabwean rugby stood on the threshold of greater things.

All that seemed to have died with the World Cup dream.

The tragedy, it seems, is that we had not looked beyond possible World Cup qualification failure – and all of us, the administrators, the players, the sponsors and the media should take flak for the state the game finds itself in.

The aftermath of the World Cup heartbreak is distressing.

Qualification would have seen an upsurge in sponsorship with corporates falling over each other to bankroll the sport in an unprecedented manner, in return for tangible measurable mileage available in the pre-World Cup period, during the World Cup itself and the post-World Cup era.

Pitifully, we find ourselves in exactly the opposite circumstances.

Expectation has been replaced by hopelessness.

National league rugby has been suspended because Delta Beverages have not extended their sponsorship deal. It’s a paralysis.

The few long-established clubs, Old Hararians, Old Georgians and Harare Sports Club still train and now and then play amongst themselves, but that’s all there is.

There was an offer by the country’s rugby governing body, the Zimbabwe Rugby Union (ZRU), during Tuesday’s meeting to take over the running of the National Rugby League (NRL), which has almost been rendered non-operational.

It’s a commendable move by the union. We were all gutted, but life did not end when we failed to qualify for the World Cup.

A decent domestic national competition is the lifeblood of a country’s rugby system, and the present state of affairs, where we don’t have a national league, needs to be corrected.

The ZRU must introduce measures to get the rugby fraternity get over the disappointment of World Cup failure – and move Zimbabwean rugby forward.

The abundant talent we have in this country must not go to waste. Come next qualifiers, we won’t be found none the wiser. – SportWeek

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