It's been a bumpy ride - Sibanda

DURBAN - By his own admission, it has not been an easy 72 days in office for Zimbabwe Rugby Union president Nyararai Sibanda.

Not that he expected any different having assumed the reigns of a union short on resources, lacking structures to nurture junior rugby, no reward system for its national players and pulling power to retain its fledgling stars.

But despite this headache he could not help but find humour at some of the comic errors exhibited by the Old Mutual Junior Sables during their morale sapping 5-78 loss to Griquas here on Wednesday.

As he watched the onslaught ensue in the company of a few Zimbabweans, who had made the long trip to this port city of Durban, it became apparent the unfolding events could spell a sad indictment of a tough road ahead for his four-year tenure.

Indeed, it has not taken Sibanda long to come face to face with the stark inadequacies crippling a game loved by many back home.

Fortunately, unlike his rivals to the ZRU crown, he never made any high sounding promises to turn around the fortunes of sport that continues to fall painfully short of its vast potential.

He did, however, hint that his leadership would create the enabling environment for the Sables to book a place at the 2019 World Cup.

So far, as many have come to know, that promise seems a distant truth given Zimbabwe's humiliating 15-61 home defeat to Kenya last Saturday.

That match was almost not played as there was rancour in the Sables camp over financial issues.  

It seems if ever he is to live the legacy his manifesto preached then it will be built around the juniors, who have found the going tough here in Durban.

“The first two months have been quite a bumpy ride in that you get to have a feel of the real issues at hand,” Sibanda said yesterday.

“It all demands a hands on approach and the big issue for me is to get functional structures...to develop without having to fire anyone.”

The former Western Panthers Rugby Club chairman said he was under no illusion of the expectations on his shoulders to steer rugby from murky waters.

“What has not helped is the results we have had with Kenya but we are seized with matters to help develop the game,” he said.

He said he would not abandon the Sables’ World Cup dream.

“It's still a must do for me. I don't think there is any president that will walk in and say cancel the World Cup because we are concentrating on development,” he said.

Sibanda said the union has been holding constant engagements with players and Zimbabwe rugby’s technical teams so that “they all feed into the vision”.

“The World Cup aspirations have not changed,” he said. “That is why I am here (in Durban). I am not here on holiday.”

The former ZRU vice president said he had opened lines of communication with various provinces in South Africa to encourage them to tour Zimbabwe.

He said they were also plans to have a national select side take part in the Currie Cup as a way to improve the competitiveness of the country’s national team.

He was also concerned at the current lack of strength and conditioning of Zimbabwean teams saying the teams were now regarded by many as “good as first half players”.

ZRU’s inefficient player retention has also been a cause of concern.

“We will give them the first refusal but we have developed a database for all our players and will be able to track them and ensure that all those players are within our reach,” he said.

Sibanda said it was tough running an amateur union but he soldier on.

“It's a transformation stage for everyone. Every day I ask myself, ‘have I done enough? What more can I do for the Sables? I can compare myself to other unions,” he said.

“I can’t give up just because there are no resources. I chose to be in this position and I will do everything I can to ensure that we play good rugby.”

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