BY HENRY MHARA
NEW Sables coach Peter de Villiers flew out to South Africa yesterday to begin talks with prospective future national rugby team players plying their trade in that country as he looks to build a formidable side that can qualify for next year’s World Cup in Japan.
The 60-year-old was appointed earlier this week, marking a return to international rugby after a seven-year hiatus and was immediately tasked with getting the local game back to its former glory days.
That includes qualifying the Sables, the flagship rugby side, to the Rugby World Cup for the first time in 27 years.
And with the World Cup qualifiers kicking off in June, de Villiers has hit the ground running, and has started the process of identifying players based abroad that he thinks can take him to Japan.
“The reason I’m going back to South Africa is to see our players that are playing there so that I can find out if they are interested in representing the country because only those who have passion for the country will play for the country. We don’t only expect them to be good rugby players, we expect them to give their lives,” De Villiers, who is expected to return to Harare in two weeks’ time to start preparations for the qualifiers, said.
Some of the players that might be of interest to de Villiers include Pumas loose forward Lambert Groenewald, Western Province winger Sam Phiri and University of Johannesburg speedster Tatendaishe Mujawo, among a host of other players plying their trade in that country.
Before flying out to Johannesburg, the former Springbok coach paid a courtesy call on Sports minister Kazembe Kazembe.
“Meeting the minister is huge, for somebody with his kind of schedule to make time for us. We are really honoured, but it doesn’t mean my job becomes easier now, there is more pressure knowing he is supporting me too. I just have to be out there now, making sure that everything that I plan works for the country.”
Zimbabwe are ranked 44th in the world after a disappointing Gold Cup campaign last year, where they lost to perennial nemeses Namibia, Kenya, Tunisia and Uganda.
The Sables will battle it out against the same opponents and Morocco in the 2019 Rugby World Cup qualifiers starting in June.
The top team will be assured of a place in Japan, where they will face New Zealand, South Africa and Italy in Pool B, while the second-placed side will enter the Repechage stage that involves further play-off games against teams from Asia, North and South America and Europe.