ZIMBABWE have gone for broke in their quest to qualify for next year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan after unveiling former Springboks coach, Peter de Villiers , as the new Sables coach for the next two years, a development that promises an exciting new era for local rugby.
BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
The 60-year-old coach has been tasked with getting Zimbabwe rugby back to its former glory days with his immediate task being to lead the flagship rugby side to the Rugby World Cup for the first time in 27 years.
Zimbabwe’s Sables last played in the World Cup in 1991 and came agonisingly close to qualifying for the last edition of the competition held in England four years ago.
De Villiers, who returns to international rugby after a seven-year absence, will be assisted by former Sables coach, Brendan Dawson, who bounced back into the fold after stepping down in 2014.
The Paarl-born rugby tactician, who became the first non-white coach to take charge of South Africa, was elated with the appointment, curiously describing it as the greatest day of his life.
He, however, admitted that he faces a tough task in meeting expectations.
“If everyone was against us being appointed it would have been a much easier task, but the expectation makes it daunting because we now have to deliver on the level of your expectation and that it something that actually puts some fear in me,” De Villiers told reporters at a breakfast meeting held at a local hotel yesterday.
“We understand we can do it and we know how we can do it. We’ve spoken at length about certain things, but that doesn’t guarantee anything yet. We still have got to sit down and deliver and you know what? It’s a bad thing when people have hope and you just come and steal it away from them. So it’s ja (yes) going to be a daunting task, it’s not going to be easy for us, but we are up for the challenge and the best is yet to come.”
Confirming De Villiers’ appointment, Zimbabwe Rugby Union president, Aaron Jani revealed that leading luxury vehicle distributor, Zimoco had sponsored a courtesy car for the new Sables coach.
He said more sponsors were lined up to support the team through the efforts of a committee headed by lawyer, Gerald Mlotshwa.
“As it is, now we have sponsors that are lined up that have covered most of our expenses and, as I indicated, we have even got Zimoco, who have given us a vehicle, so there are a lot of sponsors, who have shown interest to help the Sables,” Jani said.
De Villiers, known for his outspoken views on the game, coached the Springboks between 2008 and 2011, and during that period, won the British and Irish Lions tour in 2009, and the Tri Nations title in the same year.
He is also widely acknowledged for claiming three wins against the All Blacks during his tenure, including a famous victory in the much-vaunted Dunedin ground.
He was axed after their controversial 11-9 loss to Australia in the quarter-finals of the Rugby World Cup seven years ago.
De Villiers takes over the Zimbabwe job from Cyprian Mandenge with the Sables at their lowest ebb.
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, South and North America and Europe.