Ex-Sables coach Mandenge blasts ZRU

HARARE - Former Sables coach Cyprian Mandenge says he tendered in his resignation after it was evident the Zimbabwe Rugby Union (ZRU) had already made the decision to sack him.

Mandenge, a former Harare Sports Club loose forward whose playing career was brought to an abrupt end following a horrendous injury in 2001, was appointed the Zimbabwe 15s rugby side coach at the beginning of 2015.

With limited resources, Mandenge was able to guide the Sables to a second place finish in the Africa Cup Group 1A last year.

This year, the situation was even worse with a number of foreign-based players not showing up for the Africa Cup matches and the Sables lost all their matches to Kenya, Uganda and Namibia to be relegated to Group 1B next year.

Mandenge, together with team manager Sebastian Garikai, tendered their resignations during a heated review meeting with ZRU on Monday. 

“I was trying to make things happen by telling them (ZRU) my honest opinion on how we lost it in the campaign because we did not prepare for the games but they turned around and said I was blaming everyone else but myself,” Mandenge told the Daily News yesterday.

“The situation got ugly but fortunately I’m glad that whatever I have achieved as a coach will not be taken away from me.

“I also thought that I should protect my name, marred as it is now because I believe I tried my best, and the players did their best but the union put nothing in the campaign yet they expected results.”

He added: “To me, it was a pre-determined decision. They had made their minds up and were keen on seeing me leave.

“They even had the audacity to tell me that I had not brought any sponsors on board just like my predecessor and I asked myself what did my job description entail? Was I in charge of marketing or I was simply there to coach the team?”

Mandenge said he felt ZRU lacked sincerity and cared little about his health by being summoned to a meeting on Sunday after being hospitalised for a greater part of the last two weeks.

“Before I had even tendered my resignation, news was all over that ZRU were advertising for the technical department posts,” he said.

“I was hospitalised last week and only discharged on Friday only to be summoned on Sunday for a Monday morning meeting yet I had not recovered and was supposed to be on bed rest but I gathered enough strength to attend.

“At the meeting, the first thing they told me was that the team was not performing but they only zeroed in on the match against Namibia and decided not to talk about the whole campaign; everything was done in bad faith and they had made the decision already.

“They concluded by saying that I should do a report so that I could convince them to keep me on the job but I told them to look at themselves in the mirror, consider the part they played as far as assisting the team was before they could tell me about convincing them.”

Mandenge also queried the integrity of ZRU director of rugby Brighton Chivandire, who at one point served as the team’s forwards coach and in essence his assistant.

“I thought you can’t separate yourselves from the results. The director was my assistant in charge of the forwards so then how can he go on and sit on the other side and blame the head coach for the results when in actual fact we were together on the field?” queried Mandenge.

Contacted for comment Chivandire said: “My job is technical director, yes I did (take charge of the forwards) but what can I say? I have got no comment.”

Mandenge paid tribute to ZRU chief executive officer Colleen De Jong for making his Sables tenure comfortable.

In rugby circles, De Jong is viewed as an “iron lady”, who bulldozes everyone to get her way.

“If there is one person who helped me during my campaign it was Colleen. I used to think otherwise of her but it turned out to be the opposite. She helped me every time I needed support,” he said.

“I’m disappointed that I had to take the decision I did because I didn’t want to fight against the people who did not believe in me.

“I think with Colleen what you see is what you get, she’s got her own way of doing things.”

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