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Hope not lost after all for rugby

IndependentSport ViewWith Itai Dzamara

ALTHOUGH the pervasive winds of madness sweeping through the local soccer fraternity almost overshadowed other sporting disciplines, a ray

of sunshine flickered on the horizon with positive developments in rugby.

There is no denying the fact that recent developments in rugby, specifically regarding the national team, have a positive bearing on the future of the sport. Rugby, clearly one of the sporting disciplines that has gone to the dogs had a breath of revival following the national team’s victory against Kenya in a friendly match in Bulawayo last Saturday.

Even before the victory, the mere successful hosting of the match was a major leap from the abyss in which the sport has been languishing over the past couple of years.

Nothing is new indeed in a friendly match victory but the developments prior to the match as well as during the match itself have a lot of bearing on the real prospects for revival of the sport in this country. They showed that, after all, hope is not totally lost for the once thriving sport. After all, Zimbabwe still has the material and ability to rekindle the sport of rugby.

Despite the positive developments there are still many holes that need to be patched. Those running rugby have to build on Saturday’s success. Here is definitely a golden opportunity for the Zimbabwe Rugby Union (ZRU) to take advantage of goodwill, stability and hope for success in order to rebuild the sport.

Some observers have been falling over each other to give all credit for the victory over Kenya to recently appointed Sables coach Brighton Chivandire but that is a parochial approach to the reality that rugby faces on the national scale. That approach poses the risk of failing to address the fundamentals. Even before looking at the sport in the broader national context, the Sables team itself needs a lot of resources and support especially from the corporate world.

Reflecting on the Saturday friendly match reveals that the availability of the Germany-based trio of flank Jeff Tigere, flyhalf Victor Zambawo and eighthman Costa Dinha was a major factor in propelling the Sables to victory. Not only was the trio by far technically superior compared to the other locally based Sables players but they were also physically stronger.

Without taking anything away from the other Sables players such as Tonderai Mapunde, Augustine Mberi and Emmanuel Munyoro, who gave good performances, the Germany-based trio arguably provided the tower and strength so vital in this game. And therein lies the first task the ZRU has to tackle immediately.

The trio from Germany showed the physical aptitude that was clearly lacking in their teammates as well as some of the Kenyan players. No doubt these disparities are a result of differences between the training methods and of course diets here compared to what players benefit from in competitive leagues abroad.

It therefore entails that ZRU has the obligation to always secure resources to bring our foreign-based players for international matches. By the way, the Germany-based trio are on a season’s break and hence their availability for the match against Kenya. It would need resources to fly them home for future matches. Obviously the Sables can’t only wait for their vital contribution during breaks from their German league.

The ZRU should also set its sights on dozens of young players at universities and colleges in South Africa. Does the union have a register of all players plying their trade outside our borders?

But perhaps the biggest task staring at the ZRU is to revive the local leagues which have lost their lustre. There is need for a strong under-21 league to nurture talents coming out of the well-organised schools system. Provincial leagues should be revived to enable lesser clubs to play competitive matches without travelling long distances.

All efforts in sports administration should be geared towards ensuring that a particular discipline has a shop window, which should be the national team. A sporting discipline with a good national team usually secures sponsorship for development. Cricket was such a model sport before the current problems set in.

This is not a novel idea for the ZRU as the national team used to enjoy huge corporate support. All that was lost largely due to poor administration and political interference by incompetent and shallow officials.

The display in the shop window quickly charged from beautiful to grotesque and sponsors took flight.

Talking of the chaos in the local soccer fraternity, may I request Zimbabweans of goodwill and integrity to cooperate in denouncing the bad spirit currently tormenting the local game when Caps United clash with Highlanders at the National Sports Stadium on Sunday.

Recent developments on the local scene, including what I viewed as an act of rubbing salt into the wound when President Robert Mugabe told Education Sports and Culture Minister Aenias Chigwedere to ignore the problems at Zifa, are pointing towards a bad omen. While I understand the headaches and stomach aches President Mugabe grapples with day and night in trying to make Zimbabwe a better country, I wouldn’t understand why and how he could order his minister responsible for sports to stay away from the burning house at the Zimbabwe Football Association.

There is anarchy at Zifa House. Such is the level of chaos that board members are now being involved in physical scuffles at stadiums in the full glare of the whole world. Phew!

With the match between log leaders Caps and Highlanders coming against a background of instability in the national association as well as disturbances that led to the abandonment of the first leg in Bulawayo a fortnight ago, a special plea for magnanimity has to be made. May both clubs’ officials and players please avoid once again pulling the trigger through the various means that are common on and off the pitch. And may all fans go to the stadium in the true spirit of sportsmanship.

That spirit compels one to accept defeat and wait for another day to battle. That spirit leads the other to celebrate victory with dignity, respect and honour.

May the better team win and may peace continue to prevail to shame the devils that always lurk around to haunt local soccer!

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