Zimbabwe Rugby yesterday unveiled a weak programme for the Sables ahead of the World Cup qualifiers raising fears that the national 15s side’s chances of qualification for the 2015 global showcase are headed for the rocks.
By Kevin Mapasure
The programme is a carbon copy of the one they presented last year in which Zimbabwe Rugby promised a visit by Belgium which never materialised, as well as a tour to South Africa stillborn due to lack of funds.
Questions have been raised over Zimbabwe Rugby’s commitment to the 15s side which so much emphasis placed on the 7s (the Cheetahs) team, despite a realistic chance of making the world Cup.
In contrast, the rugby mother body unveiled yet more sponsorship for the 7s side after partnering African Sun who will be the accommodation partner.
The Sables are set to participate at the Africa Cup in Madagascar in July where the winners will win a ticket to England 2015. The tournament will be played on a round-robin format with Namibia and Kenya as well as the hosts.
Namibia could be the biggest threat to Zimbabwe’s chances of qualifying, but Kenya have probably the best preparation programme as they will participate in this year’s Vodacom Cup in South Africa against top sides.
Zimbabwe have scheduled three internationals against an unnamed European side but earlier in their tour to South Africa in June they are billed to play the Blue Bulls, Blue Bulls development side and Valke.
Zimbabwe Rugby has admitted that there was no confirmation of the matches against European sides. Zimbabwe rugby vice-president Colleen de Jonge said they were confident the Sables would travel to South Africa this time.
“The Sables programme is not as easy to come up with as the 7s one,” said De Jonge. “We are trying our best and investing most of our resources towards this World Cup dream. It is not easy to get most of the players in because quite a number of the Sables are based in Europe. But we want to make sure that they travel to South Africa and prepare well.”
Namibia has a very strong side which beat both Zimbabwe and Kenya when they met in a tri-nations tournament late last year.
Zimbabwe won their match against Kenya, but also gave a good account of themselves in a tightly contested match against Namibia.
National team coach Brendan Dawson said after the Namibia tournament the team needed more game time so that they could gel as a unit but Zimbabwe Rugby is not offering much.
This year’s 7s Invitational tournament will feature sides from Russia, Hong Kong, South Africa, Kenya and Georgia.
The Cheetahs will also attempt to win core status in the World Series after failing last year.