THE Zimbabwe rugby team will step up preparations for their campaign in the Rugby Africa Division 1A Championship following the return of national team coach Cyprian Mandenge from the first phase of the World Rugby Level Three coaching certification process in Marcoussis, France.
BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
Mandenge and national Under-20 head coach Brendon Brider attended the first part of the high-profile course together with Springbok backline coach Ricardo Loubscher and coaches from Kenya, Tunisia, Namibia, Senegal and Madagascar.
In an interview with NewsDay Sport, Mandenge, who has immediately shifted focus to the Sables ahead of Zimbabwe’s first Test match of the year, said he was happy for the opportunity to learn at the highest level.
“The first part of the coaching course went on very well. It was an opportunity to see where we are as a country in comparison to other rugby playing nations. My impressions were that as a country we are still behind but we are on the right track. Such courses will help us as coaches to learn more and appreciate the game better,” Mandenge said.
Before his departure for France, the Sables coach had been holding training sessions for Harare-based players at Prince Edward School every Wednesday with 18 players attending last week’s workout held on the Jubilee Field.
Mandenge said he plans to increase the training days as the matches against Kenya, Tunisia and World Cup-bound Namibia draw closer.
“We have been training once a week every Wednesday, but we are planning to increase the number of days until the players meet for camp ahead of the matches.
During the coaching course in France I was able to meet with the other coaches from the teams we will meet and we are not too behind in terms of preparations,” he said.
After finishing as runners-up in last year’s competition to agonisingly miss out on the sole ticket to the Rugby World Cup, the Sables will be desperate to atone for the disappointment as they look to build a squad for the 2019 edition of the global showpiece.
The Sables open their campaign with a tricky home tie against Kenya on June 13, with the East Africans expected to bring a well-drilled side as they have would have played Portugal in high-profile preparatory match on May 30.
Mandenge’s charges will then play another home tie against Tunisia on July 4 before they finish their campaign in African rugby’s top-tier competition with an away fixture against Namibia on August 15.
Meanwhile, the former Old Hararians and Harare Sports Club coach said he was hoping to send an Under-23 side to the Rugby Africa Division 1C competition to be held in Zambia from June 22-27.
Zimbabwe have received in invite to feature in the third-tier competition after the withdrawal of Cameroon, leaving Zambia and Nigeria as the only other two teams in the group.
“I’m not sure if it has been confirmed yet but the ZRU director of rugby Brighton Chivandire has been handling the issue. I think it would be an opportunity to allow the younger players to gain some experience and I would send an Under-23 side to Zambia,” Mandenge said.