Petros Kausiyo Deputy Sports Editor
In the week a new national coach is to be unveiled, Zimbabwe’s Sables have received the backing of their former captain Kennedy Tsimba to overcome the odds and qualify for the 2019 Rugby World Cup. The Sables have been in limbo and without a coach since Cyprian Mandenge was elbowed out from the post six months ago, following Zimbabwe’s poor run in the 2017 Africa Gold Cup.
But the Zimbabwe Rugby Union are expected to end months of speculation by announcing the new Sables mentor this morning with any of the trio of former Springboks coach Peter de Villiers, England-based coach Collin Osborne and ex-national captain Brendon Dawson, set to be named.
The trio has already been interviewed and the union, will now unveil the man they believe will be best suited to be handed the immediate task of trying to guide the Sables through the tough qualifying route for a place at the Rugby World Cup in Japan. Zimbabwe will open their World Cup qualification bid with a home date against Morocco on June 16.
Former Zimbabwe flyhalf Tsimba said although he was wary of the fact that Zimbabwe were lagging behind other countries in their preparations, he was banking on the new coach and the players to do a smash-and-grab job. Tsimba and his late brother, former Sables World Cup star Richard, were inducted into the World Rugby’s Hall of Fame. He equated that feat to being at the World Cup.
“It was as important as winning a Rugby World Cup. Such an acknowledgment is priceless. And to be inducted along with my childhood rugby hero (Richard) is cherry on the cake.’’
Tsimba, a gifted player who rose from Harare Sports Club to turn on a distinguished career that saw him play first class rugby for such teams like South Africa’s Super Rugby teams Free State Cheetahs and Blue Bulls and English club Bath, has since hanging up his boots in 2013, been involved with coaching young players from that country.
The 43-year-old last featured for the Sables in 1998 when they played against perennial rivals Namibia. He had made his debut for Zimbabwe against Italy A when the Sables were such a force that they attracted quality opposition. Now a member of the Sables organising committee chaired by prominent Harare lawyer Gerald Mlotshwa, Tsimba revealed his excitement at having to reunite with the squad he led during the 1998 World Cup qualification campaign.
“It feels good to give back to Zimbabwe Rugby after all these years of empowering South African young talent. I entered into coaching when I finished with Cheetahs Super Rugby team where I was from 2011 – 2013. I then moved to coach Impala Rugby club, winning the Community Cup now Gold Cup two times before I then moved to the prestigious Private School St Albans College as Director of Rugby. But I also follow the Zimbabwean game closely as I follow as I work for Kwese Sports doing their rugby products,’’ Tsimba said.
Tsimba said failure to qualify for the 2019 show-piece would not be the end of the road for Zimbabwean rugby.
“I think it’s fairly important (to qualify) but not the be-all-and-end-all. I think we need to plan for the long term as I have learnt in professional rugby, well planned campaigns overtime perform more consistently and that’s important for true success.
“There will be pressure as the other sides have started preparations for a year or two now. The coach needs time to understand the current environment on ground level. The sides we will compete against have really improved from the days where Namibia was our only hurdle.
“If the strategy is a long-term one then it won’t be too negative as we need a cycle or two to get back to the heights of when Richard and them were in “87 “91, (When Zimbabwe reached the World Cup finals). We definitely have the players to qualify for 2019 though,’’ Tsimba said.
He noted that economic factors, among other issues, had seen some plyers shun their national team in the past.
“I think there are a number of factors, the economic situation compounded by administration and player retention are key factors that played a role in the struggles between the union and the players. We need to first of all engage them and let them know what the strategy plans are, that way they can see where they can have input,’’ Tsimba said.