ZIMBABWE rugby has for some time now found itself in the intensive care unit while other countries which used to be lightweights in this game when we were doing well at the World Cup, have been gaining ground and are now beating our national team. We have either been stagnant or we have been taking huge steps backwards, while just everyone on the continent continues to improve for some time now and — as they always say in sport — results never lie and will always shame you when you are not doing well.
We are now barely recognisable as a country which used to have a very good reputation as a strong rugby-playing nation around the world, and could go to the World Cup and create some memories for the globe with our performance.
Remember the days when the late Richard Tsimba, who was nicknamed the “Black Diamond’’, charmed the entire globe with his performance at the global showcase when he exploded at the 1987 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand by scoring two tries against Romania in a 20-21 loss for our national team! Tsimba, the first black player to play for our national team, also scored a try in a loss against Japan in the 1991 Rugby World Cup.
He is just one of the great players that our rich rugby producing nurseries have churned out over the years and many of them, including Tendai “The Beast’’ Mtawarira, have gone on to become legends in their own right playing for the South Africa’s Springboks.
There are many international rugby commentators who even argue that had it not been for the huge number of our players who have proceeded to make names for themselves in the colours of South Africa, the Springboks history could have been written differently.
Adrian Garvey, who played for this country at the 1991 Rugby World Cup, featured in 28 Tests for the Springboks, Gary Teichmann came from here to play 42 Tests for the Boks and even captained them and Bobby Skinstad, who played 42 Tests for the South Africans, was also honoured with the role of skipper of these Boks.
Andy MacDonald featured in five Tests for the Boks, Brian Mujati played 12 times for the South Africans, Ian Robertson had five caps and Ray Mordt, one of our finest exports across the Limpopo, played 18 times for the Springboks.
The South Africans are not the only ones to benefit from our rugby exports with the Australians also mining from our fields with David Pocock rising to become captain of the Wallabies while Scotland also have fielded some players from here.
Still, our production lines continue to issue out some very good players and rugby is very alive and well in our school system, but somehow we don’t see that huge talent filtering in to play for our national team, especially these days, as players turn their backs on their country of birth because of challenges in the way the game is run.
We have always known that those who have been tasked with running the game here, especially in recent years, have not performed to expectations and have let down a sporting discipline that has a lot of potential if managed very well.
Against that background, we are happy to see that there has been a spirited campaign by some higher authorities to try and bring sanity back to our rugby by weeding out those who were holding on to leadership positions, but have failed to perform to expectations.
And, already, the signs are encouraging even though we still have a long way to go. When you see a country attracting the interest of former Springboks coach, Peter de Villiers, for the coaching post of its rugby national team, as is the case with us right now, then you know that something right is being done.
This is not the kind of coach who just goes looking for a job where he knows there are no prospects of success and we are happy that he has been short-listed for the job of becoming the next coach of our national team.
We are also happy that Collin Osborne, a British national who used to be part of our coaching structures in the past when we were a giant in this game, has been short-listed for the national team job and he wants to make a difference.
The challenge right now is for the new authorities to ensure they get the right man for the job, and they are spoilt for choice here, and the revival of this sleeping giant can be well and truly underway.