Sables’ rebels sidelined

THE Zimbabwe Rugby Union risks another damaging spat with senior Sables players after it emerged the administration is secretly engaging rebel players, asking them to avail themselves for next month’s tri-nations in Namibia while sidelining “the most vocal” of those who petitioned for the removal of team manager Losson Mtongwizo.

Kevin Mapasure

Sables captain Costa Dinha, Tichafara Makwanya, Cleophas Makotose, Zvikomborero Murangani, Gavin Nyawata, Jakov Jakov, Lungile Tshuma, Kuda Chiwanza, Tangai Nemadire and Gardner Nechironga all signed a petition passing a vote of no confidence in team manager Mtongwizo ahead of the July Africa Cup.

Chiwanza and Jakov later joined the squad but some of the players vowed not to take part in Sables activities until the matter was resolved.

The players accused Mtongwizo of meddling in selection issues while neglecting player welfare.

The Sables play Kenya and the hosts on November 8 and 12 respectively.

The squad for the tri-nations, organised by the Confederation of African Rugby (CAR) and the International Rugby Board (IRB) as preparations for next year’s 2015 World Cup qualifiers, has not been announced but some players have been asked to go to the High Performance Centre in Harare as preparations start.

Makwanya, the Lion Lager League’s highest points scorer, has not been called up –– a move that has sent tongues wagging.

Zimbabwe Rugby Union (ZRU) vice-president Colleen De Jonge told IndependentSport the inquiry into the tiff between the players and Mtongwizo was on and a report will soon be presented.

She said the squad had not been announced despite preparations having started because they were still consulting over the availability of foreign-based players.

But one of the rebel players said the delay in announcing the squad was because management feared it would trigger another storm.

“They face a dilemma; they cannot announce that squad because they know there is something wrong with it,” said the player. “They are going around telling individual players to go to the High Performance Centre to start preparations. They want to sideline vocal players, the likes of Makwanya, Costa Dinha, Cleophas Makotose and Tangai Nemadire. Once the squad is announced, it will torch another storm. How do you explain the exclusion of Makwanya, the local league’s highest points scorer?”

De Jonge said this week the union was making frantic efforts to mend relations with rebel players.

The Sables have probably the best chance in years to make it to the World Cup finals to be staged in England in 2015 after assembling a force that has ruled the continent.

ZRU has all plans in place; three home matches against South African provincial sides, the hiring of specialist coaches, the appointment of a technical director and the engaging of the commercial sector, ensure qualification for England.

But player unrest over selection issues, among others, threaten to tear that dream to pieces.

Zimbabwe need to win next year’s Africa Cup to get automatic qualification to the global showpiece where they head straight to a first match against the All Blacks.

The prospect of playing at the Word Cup has seen congestion at the Sables’ team door.

But this has not gone down well with the players who have been with the team in the last few years when they won the Africa Cup in 2011 and 2012.

The players say they welcome competition for places but claim returning foreign based players are getting favourable treatment.
De Jonge said ZRU was making efforts to ensure the technical team fields the strongest team possible at the tri-nations and qualifiers next year.

“Behind the scenes we are doing everything to make sure we field our strongest squad,” said De Jonge. “We are engaging everybody concerned and a report will be presented. The matter has not been taken lightly and we will do everything to ensure it is soon resolved to everybody’s satisfaction.”

Issues that have to be dealt with include who qualifies to play for Zimbabwe as some players based abroad are angling for a return after World Cup hopes brightened.

The IRB regulation 8.1 states that “a Player may only play for the senior fifteen-a-side National Representative Team, the next senior fifteen-a-side National Representative Team and the senior National Representative Sevens Team of the Union of the country in which: either he was born, or one parent or grandparent was born or if he has completed thirty six consecutive months of residence immediately preceding the time of playing.”

The Sports and Recreation Commission has directed that one has to be a holder of a Zimbabwean passport to qualify to play for the country.

Top