ZIMBABWE rugby team coach Peter de Villiers believes the tough times endured this year have laid the foundation for future success after the Sables voided relegation from the top tier of African rugby with a convincing 38-18 victory over Uganda at the Kyadondo Rugby Club here in Kampala on Saturday.
BY DANIEL NHAKANISO IN KAMPALA, UGANDA
The Sables managed just a single win and a draw out of five Tests in De Villiers’ first season as head coach, ultimately missing out on a place to next year’s Rugby World Cup after finishing fifth in the six-nation Gold Cup, which doubled as the qualification tournament to the global showpiece.
The former Springboks coach, who resolutely kept faith in a core group of young players, is positive about the outlook of Zimbabwe’s future and believes his charges can mount a strong challenge for a place at the 2023 World Cup if given the necessary support.
“We are at this stage in a great place to be and these youngsters can only grow and I think Zim rugby can have years of rejoicing. We didn’t make it for the World Cup, but we’re going to work hard now to bring back the trust of the people for 2023,” he said.
“I’ll sit down with the bosses and see what is in their minds. We need to get most of these guys to sign up with us so that we can give them a good offseason and preseason programme. They are our assets and if you look after them properly, definitely we will be proud of these guys,” he said.
While everything finally came together in a clinical performance against Uganda the Sables had in their first four matches produced good play in passages, but critical lapses had proven damaging and prevented them from producing complete performances.
In fact, De Villiers’ men could have been firmly in contention of either the automatic ticket to the World Cup or the place in the repechage playoffs eventually claimed by Namibia and Kenya respectively if they had fully utilised their opportunities against Morocco, Kenya and Tunisia.
“That is why professional rugby is so important, the more you play, the more you understand these things. As I said two weeks ago, scoreboard pressure was always against us and then the individuals were trying to go and fix it on their own and today when we actually controlled the scoreboard you could see they were actually calm under the circumstances and got the ball in the right areas.
“Today it was a good team performance where the forwards set the platform for us and when the spaces were there the hard running backs took it and made good choices. Well done to the team” he said.
Sables captain Denford Mutamangira also echoed his coach’s sentiments and called on the local rugby governing body, Zimbabwe Rugby Union and their sponsors such as Zerttew Resources, Titan Law, Portnex International and Canterbury and others to continue supporting the team.
“It’s a very young team with an average age of around 24 or 25 years and my call to the union and the corporate world is for them to keep on supporting the team. It will be a process and results don’t just come overnight. Imagine where we could be in the next two years, I believe this will be the team to beat. I hope our sponsors keep up supporting this team and looking after the current players that we have and develop them into better players, they can only get better,” he said.
Mutamangira also expressed his delight after his charges finally managed to repay the faith shown in them by their coach.
“We just needed this as a team, like what I’ve always been saying this team has got a lot of potential and we owed it to our coach. He’s been with us right from the beginning and throughout all the criticism, he said I’m not going to change my team. He said I believe in you guys, you’re the best and I’ve picked the right guys for Sables and today we’ve just shown it and I’m really proud of the boys and we can only grow from here,” he said.