FOR a man who led world rugby powerhouses South Africa to the 2009 Tri Nations title, a Test series win over the British and Irish Lions and a memorable victory over New Zealand in Dunedin, you’d think there wouldn’t be a lot left to get Peter de Villiers too worked up or nervous.
BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
But the former Springboks coach admitted feeling “excited but very nervous” as he prepares to lead Zimbabwe in his first Test since his appointment in February against Morocco in a Rugby Africa Gold Cup clash at Harare Sports Club on Saturday.
De Villiers said the national cricket team’s failure to qualify for next year’s World Cup in England and Wales has left his charges facing the extra weight of expectation as they aim to qualify for their first World Cup in 27 years by booking a ticket to next year’s global showpiece in Japan.
The Sables need to finish top of the group which includes the Moroccans, Namibia, Tunisia, Kenya and Uganda to automatically qualify for the World Cup.
“I’m excited but very nervous. Nervous because I do know what the hope of the country is after we didn’t make it to the Cricket World Cup, I know that the focus has now shifted to us,” De Villiers told reporters at a Press briefing yesterday.
While paying tribute to the Zimbabwe Rugby Union (ZRU) for its support in ensuring that his team’s preparations went according to plan, De Villiers said his charges were ready to face the Moroccans.
“I’ve been supported greatly by the union; I can say the players too have been treated professionally. We brought a new dimension to Zim Rugby and everybody aboard to it,” he said.
“At this moment we are prepared to go play tomorrow but still need these two days going forward to get ourselves ready for all the onslaughts that can come from any part of our opponents.”
The 61-year-old tactician said his major focus during the preparations has been to instil a sense of self belief among his players, most of whom have either played for the Sables before or came through the country’s age group teams.
“Self-belief is the most important thing. I never selected any one of the players that are here, they selected themselves. They showed that they have it. Most of them have the pedigree, they’ve played for Zimbabwe in age group levels, and some of them have played for Zimbabwe already at national level. The one thing that we brought into their minds is that we’re not playing just another game, this is a Test, and this is war, its country against country.
“Again the time the union has given me with the players, I’m very grateful. We took them out of club rugby to prepare them as a team for almost a month now, so the spirit is high, they live for and care for each other and we are all looking forward for Saturday,” he said.
ZRU president Aaron Jani said they he was confident that Saturday’s encounter would mark a new era for the domestic game as they continue with their mission to bring the glory days back to Zimbabwean rugby.
The Sables Trust, led by prominent lawyer Gerald Mlotshwa has been spearheading various initiatives to mobilise resources for the team which has seen mining company Zerttew Resources coming on baord being their main sponsor.
Other sponsors include Portnex International, Titan Law, Canterbury, Zimoco, SeedCo, Dairibord, Machinery Exchange, Fawcett and Old Mutual.
The Sables team to play Morocco will be announced tomorrow.