Mandenge fires salvo

HARARE - Sables coach Cyprian Mandenge has castigated former Zimbabwe Rugby Union (ZRU) director of rugby Liam Middleton.

Following Zimbabwe’s dismal performance in the Rugby Afrique Gold Cup where they finished in fifth place out of six teams, Middleton put his hand up as a possible replacement for Mandenge.

At the moment, there is a lot of confusion in local rugby following the suspension of the Zimbabwe Rugby Union board led by Nyararai Sibanda by the Sports and Recreation Commission.

Whether Mandenge will keep his position with the incoming interim board remains to be seen.

“Liam should be the last person to talk about serving Zimbabwe. He is only here because he has failed elsewhere,” Mandenge told the Daily News on Sunday.

“I took this job knowing the challenges; it was going to be difficult because there was no support. It’s funny how people talk about the results as if they don’t know what was happening.

“My mandate was very clear for this year- build a team and stay in the Gold Cup and this was key.

“The first time he (Middleton) came to be director was because he had lost his job in the UK. The second instance he had failed in Canada and people must take note that he failed with all the resources at his disposal.”

Middleton had a successful stint as with the Zimbabwe Sevens side taking the Cheetahs to the World Championships where they did exceptionally well winning four and losing just two of their six games.

In 2013, he was sacked by Bristol Rugby Club in the United Kingdom following a mutual understanding. He had joined Bristol in 2009 as academy manager.

Middleton returned home and was appointed ZRU director of rugby where he failed to inspire the Sables to the 2015 World Cup; Brendan Dawson was the head coach.

In 2014, Middleton was appointed Canada Sevens rugby coach but was fired in July 2016 after failing to qualify for the Olympics as well as having two difficult seasons on the Sevens World Series circuit.

Mandenge said unlike Middleton, he has great respect for Dawson.

“I have lots of respect for him (Dawson) for he is one man that I know to be very passionate about Zimbabwe rugby,” Mandege said.

“The last World Cup Qualifiers he was failed by someone who took over his job when he was supposed to be director of rugby.

“The same person who was supposed to put structures to make sure that we qualify this time around.

“Now he wants to come when all the hard work has been done and looks like the answer to our problems.”

In an earlier interview with our sister publication the Daily News, Middleton said he was available to help get the Sables out of their current predicament.

“Under the right conditions (player welfare) and time available from my employers, I would be open to an approach (from ZRU),” Middleton said.

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