Beast insists future bright for Sables despite World Cup failure

The Sables lost 34-19 to the Namibians in the semi-finals of the Africa Cup, which was also a qualifier for the 2023 World Cup finals.

BY DANIEL NHAKANISO SPRINGBOKS legend Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira believes the future of local rugby is bright despite the Sables’ failure to qualify for next year’s Rugby World Cup in France.

Zimbabwe will have to endure another agonising wait to try and qualify for the country’s first Rugby World Cup since 1991, following a disappointing defeat to perennial tormentors Namibia in France on July 6.

The Sables lost 34-19 to the Namibians in the semi-finals of the Africa Cup, which was also a qualifier for the 2023 World Cup finals.

A campaign which had started with so much promise with a convincing win against Ivory Coast ended dismally for the Sables after they lost 20-12 against North Africans Algeria in the third place playoff match to finish the 2022 Rugby Africa Cup campaign a disappointing fourth.

Despite the Sables’ capitulation at the Stade Maurice David in the French southern city of Aix-en-Provence, Mtawarira believes the national rugby side is on the right track but called for more financial support for the team.

Mtawarira, who lifted the 2018 Rugby World Cup in Japan, watched the 2022 Rugby Africa Cup matches in Marseille and Aix-en-Provence in his role as the 2023 Rugby World Cup ambassador.

He said despite playing for the Springboks he still keenly follows Zimbabwean rugby.

“Yes, it was very disappointing,” Mtawarira said in an in depth interview with the French rugby union website Le Rugbynistère when asked of his thoughts on Zimbabwe’s failure to qualify for the World Cup.

“I was born in Zimbabwe, so I supported them. The game (against Namibia) was tight, but the future is bright for them. Good things are happening in Zimbabwean rugby. There’s a lot of talent there. We just have to improve further and hope to qualify for the next World Cup in Australia.”

“Yes, there was indeed a lot of work with a lot of talent and good young players (before the qualifiers). But then again, the players made basic mistakes against Namibia that cannot be forgiven. To take the next step, we need more financial aid, more sponsors. But the future is really bright,” he added.

Mtawarira retired from international rugby in 2019 following a storied career that yielded 117 caps, the most capped prop in Springbok history.

He also bowed out on a high after helping the team win the record-equaling World Cup title.

Even after his retirement, Mtawarira remains a popular figure around the rugby world due to his earning ambassadorial roles and charity works.

While his career has brought him both fame and fortune around the world, he has maintained a strong bond with his roots in Zimbabwe where he rose from humble beginnings on his way to becoming a global icon.

“I do follow Zimbabwean rugby, in fact, I am more (involved with) the schoolchildren and students there. I focus on youth and their training through my foundation (The Beast Foundation). There are a lot of young talented players who can go far, but the problem remains the lack of infrastructure,” he said.

“Most young people do not have adequate structures after school to continue training. So they go to try their luck in South Africa, Australia or England. So I will try to build in Zimbabwe.

Asked if he would consider a coaching career with the Sables in the future, Mtawarira said he has no plans to become coach of the national rugby side but remains available to offer advice.

“Hmm no, I have no aspiration to become a coach. What I really enjoy the most is working with the kids. This is where my passion lies. Then I could help Zimbabwe with advice for training or strategies, but not as a coach.”

Mtawarira also threw his weight behind the current Sables head coach Brendan Dawson but called for the strengthening of the technical team by the addition of more experienced assistant coaches.

“Yes I really believe Zimbabwe can qualify for the World Cup in 2027. If we provide help, particularly in the current staff, quality assistant coaches, with the players available, the team will be able to represent Zimbabwe in 2027 in Australia,” said Beast.

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