'We let down the Sables'

HARARE - The Zimbabwe Rugby Union (ZRU) has admitted that they failed to give the Sables a good platform to perform during this year’s Africa Cup Group 1A campaign.

Cyprian Mandenge’s side were relegated to the Africa Cup Group 1B following home defeats to Kenya and Uganda.

ZRU did not organise any warm-up matches for the team ahead of both matches and the players did not have any incentives which meant morale was very low among the squad.

The relegation complicates the Sables chances of fighting for the 2019 Rugby World Cup berth.

Zimbabwe now needs to finish top of Group 1B next year to be readmitted back to Group 1A for the 2018 season to fight for a ticket to qualify for the Rugby World Cup to be held in Japan.

“The Sables, our flagship team has not performed well in the past and the recent defeat to Kenya does not sit well with us. As a board we accepted that the Sables needed closer attention and given the respect that they need,” ZRU vice-chairperson Noddy Kanyangarara said in a statement after a recent board meeting.

“There is need for everyone to put shoulder to wheel and reposition the Sables and elevate the brand that has not been given its space in the past.”

Kanyangarara also revealed the players lacked trust in the administration but expressed hope that they will soon mend their ties with the paying of allowances for the failed African Cup campaign being ZRU’s sign of commitment to the cause.

“Without a successful senior national team, all the players that are coming through the ranks will not respect the team and have nothing to aspire to,” he added.

“We also resolved that there is need to build trust between the Sables and the ZRU. The players had lost all confidence in the mother body... we are on the right path to win back their hearts of our flagship team. In difficult times we managed to honour what we had pledged to do and I believe that that has gone a long way in appeasing the players.”

Sables captain Denford Mutamangira also called on ZRU to start taking the game seriously if rugby is to scale to better heights.

“We have to take our local rugby seriously, most of the players in the national team are locally based and this on and off running of the local league doesn’t help matters really. Key thing for us are the preparations, we need to start early, we need to start preparing for next year now,” Mutamangira said after the Uganda defeat.

Mandenge concurred with his captain.

“The stop-gap measures that we had resorted to weren’t the best way to operate; we needed to get players that we requested for camp on time... I believe Zimbabwe can do it if we do the right things at the right time,” said Mandenge.

“It’s painful to lose but what’s important now is to get our preparations right and not lose sight of where we need to go as a rugby-playing nation.”

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