Rugby boss says he’s got a revival plan

Enock Muchinjo

BRYN Williams, president of the Zimbabwe Rugby Union (ZRU), might have probably retreated into a shell after Zimbabwe’s latest failure in the World Cup campaign.



face=”Verdana, Arial, Helvetica, sans-serif”>But after a long and hard assessment of the situation, Williams is keen to present a plan he believes will pluck Zimbabwe rugby out of the woods.


This week, Williams spoke to IndependentSport about his development plan encompassing all forms of the game.


The plan dwells heavily on special player conditioning, dietary supplements, fitness and mental toughness – basically the aspects missing in local rugby and which Williams blames for the downfall of the Sables in the recent years.


The plan, Williams said, will ultimately lead to the separation of functions between a new Zimbabwe Rugby (Pvt) Limited company that will deal with the professional and commercial arm of the game, and the ZRU, which will retain its core duty of rugby development. This falls in line with modern trends in the top rugby nations of the world, where rugby league and rugby union both run professionally but with different roles.


Williams said the main target once his plan gets into action is to improve Zimbabwe’s seeding by the International Rugby Board (IRB), which will see the country get more invitations to play at major tournaments and also get a rise in its annual seeding-based grant from the international governing body.


The IRB seeds countries in tiers. The first tier is the grouping of the top nations in the world – the Tri-Nations, Six Nations and Super 12 countries.

Zimbabwe fall in tier four alongside countries like Uganda and Ivory Coast.

Kenya, who used to fall below Zimbabwe, leapfrogged into tier three on the back of their sevens performance that saw them qualify for the Sevens World Cup this year. Namibia are the other African country in tier three.


Williams explained Zimbabwe’s low seeding.


“They (IRB) look at it from a commercial point of view,” he said. “They look at aspects like visibility (countries playing more international games), and the teams which attract crowds and investments.


“As Zimbabwe, our tier seeding has been that low because our national exposure dropped around 2003 when we only started having a handful of matches for the Sables and the Craven Week for the schools side.


“We tried to get exposure for the Under-21s in South Africa, but it was one-way traffic. The South Africans had said that they would also come up here in return, but that never materialised. It cost us a lot of money.


“This year also, the Under-21s have also played one game, which is a pity. But we have been gearing up Sykes (Sibanda, Under-21 coach) and Blessing (Chiutare, team manager) for next year, and they are aware of that.”

So how can Zimbabwe get more visible on the international level?


“I think we are starting to get more visibility now in all forms of the game,” Williams said, singling out the remarkable strides made by the national sevens side.


“Bruce Hobson (national sevens manager) has done well with the sevens side which is obviously because of his Husqvarna Academy and the conditioning the players are exposed to there,” he said.


“And we now have the Under 18’s playing in the World Cup qualifiers, and also the Under-21 World Cup qualifiers which I successfully lobbied for at the IRB annual general meeting in Dublin in April, and we will start having those from next year.


“Also, for the first time in our history we have managed to send a national Under-14 side to South Africa for an equivalent tournament of the Craven Week, and that will be an annual thing from now. So this year we have played eight youth international games outside the Craven Week.”


The question of the sub-standard facilities in the country was not helped by the natural modest size of most of the Sables players this year, as Williams put it.


“You saw in the first-leg match against Uganda that it was the foreign-based guys like Michael Rhodes and Ryan Dube who stood out physically. That is because they are exposed to the highest physical conditioning in South Africa.


“The Ivory Coast and Senegal players all stay in France, and they are put on these training programmes. That is what we want to introduce from the Under-19 to the senior level, which is where we are losing competitiveness because when the players leave school they no longer have access to the fitness facilities.


“When we play countries like Ivory Coast and Morocco at junior level we beat them quite easily, because the main weapon at this level is talent more than the physique, and we have the better talent.


“Any bodybuilder will tell you that at 17, your body is still growing, and you only start bodybuilding at around 18. That is when the fitness factor comes into effect.”


On the separation of administration functions, Williams said:

“The union has been subsidising resources for a long time and it has stretched us to the limit. I do not want to see a situation where anyone feels prejudiced, so we have tried to give everyone a share of the little we have.


“So we now want the union to use the IRB grant simply for development while the company will run as a business entity and concentrate on generating sponsorship.”


Williams, a member of the CAR marketing sub-committee, also responded to the general feeling in local rugby that CAR is not running the game in the best interests of all regions.


“There is a bit of sensitivity here between the Anglophone and Francophone African countries. We have been a victim of many prejudices, but we are doing everything possible so that CAR is seen as a body that treats everyone the same,” he said.