FOR national team back-row forward Rocky Gurumani, the play-off matches against Uganda could present a watershed in his international rugby career. The Sables face their f
irst test of character and strength against the Ugandans at Prince Edward School tomorrow.
The 3-34 thrashing by Ivory Coast a fortnight ago inflicted a big a wound on Gurumani’s heart and left his pride in tatters. After giving so much to local rugby for over a decade, the 32-year-old Old Hararians player-coach says he felt let down by the current administration and coaches.
If Zimbabwe fail to beat the Ugandans to get through to Round 2 of the World Cup qualifiers, Gurumani will hang up his Sables boots and concentrate on coaching and playing for the Old Boys. Before the team’s departure for the Ivory Coast, Gurumani had said to a colleague: “I’m now more proud wearing the green (jersey) of Old Hararians than the green of Zimbabwe.”
Gurumani said the humiliating loss in Abidjan was a reflection of mismanagement, poor coaching tactics and wrong team selection.
“You can’t afford to experiment at this level of the game,” said Gurumani. “It’s a World Cup qualifier and you field four debutants, together with guys who had had one or two caps. The experienced guys like me were on the bench,” he said.
“The coach wanted to use me as an impact player, but you cannot do that in a game of this magnitude. What impact can you make (you come in) when the game is now 25-3? We did not have plan B when things went wrong,” he said.
“Our game plan was to kick forward and force Ivory Coast into making mistakes. But you can’t play rugby hoping that others make mistakes.”
He said Ivory Coast kicked better than Zimbabwe and at the end of the day the team was beaten at its own game plan.
“Every time we kicked forward, the ball did not go out and they would simply pick the ball up, chase and score,” said Gurumani.
“The forwards did not rise to the occasion. They just lacked experience. Why would a guy weighing just 80 kilos try to take on someone weighing 120 kilos when it was easier to go round him. The guys failed to create enough phase play for the backline to utilise. No one was initiating runs. It’s only when I came in and I started running at them that gaps were created for the backs to run in,” he added.
The issue of team selection has been a bone of contention in the team.
“The players lacked big match temperament. We do not play a lot of Test games, and all of a sudden you play in front of ten thousand people,” he said.
“At my club OH, most of our players can make the national team and have played for the team before. But they are not selected because people are afraid of being accused of bias. But on merit, most of OH would play for Zimbabwe and that’s all what matters,” he said. Gurumani said regionalism was killing rugby.
“In the Super 12, team selection is concentrated on the top sides. It’s not necessary to spread selection for the sake of it, when you know that the majority of the players are mediocre,” he said.
He also blasted the preparation to the tie.
“The preparations were dismal. We only arrived in Abidjan on Friday evening when we were playing the following day. I think the players need to be treated with some respect. Right now we have not received our money from the first game. We don’t get satisfaction financially so we get it passionately from playing for our country. But we need to be treated as professionals. We take time from work to camp, which shows a lot of commitment from us. Everyone must show the same commitment”, Gurumani said.
ZRU now owes player Max Dyke about $40 million after the Mashonaland Country Districts forward-paid for the team’s visas in Abidjan using his credit card.
“The union is not doing its job at all. They knew there was a match coming but they had to wait until the last minute to run around. We slept late on Friday night, and how do you expect the team to play and win the following day?” said Gurumani.
And for tomorrow’s match. The few changes to the Sables forward pack announced by coach Lampard yesterday can best be described as a drop in the ocean.
Michael Rhodes of Durban Coalition Club in South Africa comes in for his Sables debut at hooker. But prop Shingi Chrimmuta and Robbie du Rand are still not available. Gurumani finds himself on the bench, again. But OH teammate, flank Prayer Chitenderu, returns to the team.
Zimbabwe, without a try in two matches, have suffered another blow in the backline, with fullback Emmanuel Munyoro out with a groin injury from the Ivory Coast game. But South African based three-quarter Ryan Dube has been brought in at first centre to give some mobility to the line.
Zimbabwe starting line-up:
1. Norman Mutiba 2. Michael Rhodes 3. Aubrey Dube 4. Fortune Chipendo 5. Reuben Kumpasa 6. Mbekezeli Ndiweni 7. Prayer Chitenderu 8. Max Madziwa (captain), 9. Gary Hewitt 10. David Cloete 11. Wesley Mbanje 12. Ryan Dube 13. Willis Magasa 14. Tangai Nemadire 15. Cleopas Makotose
Reserves: Wesley Peterson, Rocky Gurumani, Alfred Sairayi, Michael Nyamasoka, Donald Mangenje, Max Dyke, Jason Hitz.