By Enock Muchinjo
ZIMBABWE Rugby Union (ZRU) president Bryn Williams has thrown his weight behind national team coach Brighton Chivandire after the Sables’ Africa Cup semi-final defeat to Namibia last week.
In an interview with IndependentSport this week, Williams touched on several issues affecting Zimbabwe rugby and his union’s objectives to revive the game formerly regarded as the country’s fastest growing sport.
The ZRU leader said the national team’s poor performance this season was a result of last season’s chaos, not technical shortcomings.
“It was not easy for Chivandire to work, coming from last season where morale in Zimbabwe rugby was very low and we had no sponsors. At the start of the season, we had no CEO, no coach,” Williams said.
“We had no product to show for our efforts and no one wants to sponsor you like that. I think the coach did his best under the circumstances. He has got positive and realistic ideas about our rugby and has our full support. He is a role model, having won so many caps for his country and coached at various levels.”
Without any sponsorship, the ZRU had to subsidise its annual grant from the International Rugby Board (IRB) to take care of the team’s needs.
“That money is designed for development and it was a major setback using it for other things. It really stretched our coffers to the limit,” Williams said.
Williams took over from Lawrence Majuru after he had stepped down at the union’s AGM last year.
On the defeat in Namibia, Williams said the union had to learn the hard way.
“We have to admit that we were hammered and took a knock on the chin. We have already done part of the post-mortem and are looking forward to getting partners to assist us,” he said. “We need to condition our locally based players to rectify the gaps exposed in the Africa Cup matches. We are looking to setting up gyms for the special physical training to help the players reach the requirements at this level. The special training will have the backline players working on – their leg muscles and the forwards work on their upper bodies.”
Williams also revealed plans by the ZRU to apply for admission into the South African professional domestic competition, the Vodacom Currie Cup. The union, Williams said, has to commercialise Zimbabwe rugby first by transforming it into a company with its own directors and partners.
“Playing in the Vodacom will have immense benefit to our rugby in terms of financial benefits, through television rights and endorsements, the world class competition and the availability of wanted players,” he said.
“But we have to get some money first if we are to be admitted. We will have to buy back our foreign-based players to strengthen our team just as foreign teams buy players from other countries. Any player would want to be contracted and play top class professional rugby for their national team, as what happens in cricket.”