Time to start RWC 2023 preps

HARARE - Sables coach Peter de Villiers has had mixed fortunes in his first season in charge of the national rugby team.

The former Springboks coach was appointed in February this year just three month before the start of the 2018 Rugby Afrique Gold Cup campaign.

This year’s Gold Cup competition carried a lot of significance since it also doubled up as the African qualifiers for the 2019 Rugby World Cup to be held in Japan.

Zimbabwe’s only two appearances at the global showpiece came way back in 1987 and 1991. Since then the Sables have failed to seal a berth at the Rugby World Cup and the domestic game has taken a huge hit.

The once-vibrant National Rugby League (NRL) lost sponsors and was followed by a huge player exodus with Zimbabweans seeking opportunities in faraway places.

At the moment, the domestic game is vacillating between a state of amateur and semi-professional.

When de Villiers’ appointment was announced by the new Zimbabwe Rugby Union (ZRU) executive led by Aaron Jani, it seemed like a new dawn was on the horizon.

Even sponsors also came on board led by Zerttew Resources and Titan Law to be the major benefactors of the Sables brand.

All the emphasis was placed on qualifying for Japan at all costs.

This is where ZRU and the entire rugby community in Zimbabwe got it wrong.

Sport has evolved over the years and success is only guaranteed by getting the right technical team, players, support staff and preparations in place.

Of course de Villiers is a big-name coach who comes with a glittering CV and vast experience in the South African game but this was no easy task.

Zimbabwe had plummeted on the World Rugby rankings following two disappointing campaigns in the Gold Cup previously.

It was going to be a miracle if the Sables had qualified for the World Cup next year after such poor showings in recent years.

Even our preparations for the 2018 campaign were all not that rosy as the Sables did not play a single Test match in preparation for the opening game at home to Morocco.

The team only held a training camp in Esigodini before moving on to Pretoria, South Africa where they took on the Blue Bulls development side.

With a number of young players in the squad, it was more of a rebuilding exercise by de Villiers and hoping for a qualification to the World Cup was a bit too far-stretched.

When the Gold Cup matches started, the results pretty much mirrored the preparations the Sables had put in.

We drew at home to Morocco before going on to lose consecutive games to Kenya, Tunisia and Namibia. With that the hope of qualifying for Japan was over and another real intimidating battle was now on our hands; that was avoiding relegation.

The Sables went into their last Gold Cup encounter against Uganda in Kampala last weekend with the Grim Riper’s shadow largely looming.

A defeat would have spelled doom as it came with relegation to the less fashionable world of Silver Cup rugby next year.

However, the side put in a spirited performance and emerged with a precious 18-38 win that guaranteed the side’s stay in the Gold Cup.

What should be the ultimate lesson here for the ZRU should be that of setting up long term goals rather than trying to take a short cut.

Now that the 2019 World Cup is out of our way, the union should now be more focused in making sure the current team is prepared well for the next qualifiers for the finals set for 2023.

De Villiers and his players now need all the support they can get through the next three years to make sure they are in good stead when the 2022 Gold Cup comes around.

This will be the final qualifier for the 2023 Rugby World Cup and it needs all the attention it deserves.

The ZRU should not wait for 2022 Gold Cup to arrive but they should rather lay the ground work right now so that the Sables are better equipped to challenge for a World Cup berth by then.

Comments (1)

What the writer has conveniently forgot to mention is that qualifying for the world cup was going to attract more sponsorship and put the sables on the map again. With qualification, much needed funding was going to come. Where the coach missed it was not engaging foreign based palyers who would have added quality to the side. He flatly refused to select guys like Manasa Sita, Chitokwino, Groenoweld, Bhasera, Snyman etc. Even those who had jetted in like Johan Stander didnt get gametime. His arguemnet was he wanted to give local guys a chance. But this backfired as the "local" players were not international test quality save for 3 or 4 players. The coach, in my view, is the problem

Dollar boy - 24 August 2018

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