Sables remain in Gold Cup but...

HARARE - Zimbabwe rugby breathed a sigh of relief after the Sables retained their Rugby Afrique Gold Cup status by the skin of their teeth following another 38-12 defeat to Uganda on Saturday.

But questions remain whether the current set-up can pull the sport out of its current predicament and lodge a sustained challenge for 2019 Rugby World Cup qualification.

One win and three losses and only claiming a 2018 Rugby Afrique Gold Cup spot by virtue of Tunisia beating Senegal, hardly inspires any confidence going into a season where the team cannot afford to put a foot wrong.

That Zimbabwe has now slipped down the world rankings to their lowest ever position of 40th, is further reason for concern and an obvious red flag indicating changes need to be made.

Looking into the Sables slump in the last two years, it’s difficult to absolve coach Cyprian Mandenge, who has only managed one win in his last nine internationals in charge and literary presiding over a sinking ship.

Mandenge has spiritedly argued that a vast number of 182 players — on the Zimbabwe Rugby Union (ZRU) database — plying their rugby abroad have been unable to come for assessment because the union is broke.

Mandenge says some of his proposals for more friendly matches against stronger opposition to iron out combinations and player fitness have also been shot down.

The Sables coach has also been working alone without an assistant coach with the exception of a few cameo roles by well wishers.

Other national team coaches have at least two assistant coaches coupled with a backs and forwards coaches. 

Part of the Sables coach’s concerns were put to bed when The Sables Trust which came on board before the Namibia game to take care of some of the teams’ expenses such as, airfares, accommodation and match allowances.

But that did not translate to results on the park.

However, let us say Zimbabwe rugby supporters believe Mandenge’s version of events, then why does he stay aboard a sinking ship with those tasked to help him turning a blind eye?

The administration can also not be absolved of any wrongdoing, if anything, the Nyararai Sibanda-led ZRU board has done little to endear themselves to supporters.

It is already on record that rugby technical stalwarts have offered to assist the Sables in one form or another but it appears there is no urgency on the part of the union in beefing up the Sables technical team.

The ZRU secretariat is currently manned by general manager Sifiso Made, operational manager Fortunate Zungu and chief executive Blessing Chiutare, all apparently being paid to do a similar job.

Many have called on the union to cut down on their top heavy executives and channel the funds to their development projects.

The post of director of rugby advertised months ago is still vacant with Nsikelelo “Sykes” Sibanda in the post on an interim basis for over a year now.

There is no arguing that Zimbabwe rugby, by all means, needs to pull in one direction and qualify for the 2019 Rugby World Cup which makes business sense and will pour money into the sport.

Whichever way, ZRU cannot continue to sit by and do nothing.

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