The Zimbabwe Rugby Union says it fully backs under-fire South African coach Peter de Villiers, following a review of the Sables’ dismal 2019 Rugby World Cup qualification campaign held at the weekend.
BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
De Villiers’ first season in charge of the Zimbabwe senior rugby team came under scrutiny on Saturday as the ZRU board and the executive committee met in Harare for an extensive review of the team’s poor showing in the 2018 Africa Gold Cup, which doubled as the qualifiers for next year’s World Cup.
The Sables, who were bidding for a first World Cup appearance since 1991, managed just one win, one draw and three losses and came agonisingly close to being relegated from the top-tier of African rugby.
ZRU president Aaron Jani, however, said after lengthy discussions, they decided to back De Villiers, who is now expected to see off a two-year contract he signed in February.
The former Sables player said they took into consideration the limited time De Villiers had to prepare the team and lack of proper support structures such as a functioning league, among others.
“On Saturday September 29, we had our third board meeting for the year. It was lengthy, but very fruitful. The matter that dominated the deliberations was our Gold Cup campaign,” Jani said.
“The board felt that perhaps our goal to win the Gold Cup was too ambitious given the background of where we were coming from. We had no proper league structures to support the campaign and no strength and conditioning structures.”
Jani said although the union was disappointed with the team’s results, they were encouraged by the strong finish to the campaign and the number of young players in the squad.
“The board noted that we performed well below expectations, but there were good signs towards the last two games, especially Namibia and Uganda. Given the youthfulness of our squad, the board was encouraged and optimistic about the future as we saw purpose and structure in these games,” he said.
“As far as speculation on the coach was concerned, the board resolved to continue with the two-year contract that we have with the coach. We have decided to strengthen the support and systems around the coach.”
In a bid to complement the Sables technical team’s efforts, Jani said the union had embarked on a mission to revive the once competitive National Rugby League while efforts are underway to join the SuperSport Rugby Challenge in South Africa.
“We will have a very strong and competitive national league comprising six teams. To qualify to compete, each team must present a woman’s side and an under-21 side as a precondition,” Jani said.
“We resolved to apply to SARU [South Africa Rugby Union] for entrance into the Super Sport Challenge. We also resolved to strengthen the selection panel. The Zimbabwe Academy structures are now operational which will serve as an incubator for talent and the first game for our u23 Academy will be in November against Naka Bulls from South Africa.”