The Zimbabwe Rugby Union (ZRU) has successfully lobbied for the International Rugby Board (IRB)’s assistance in engaging former Springbok World cup-winning tight head prop Balie Swart to join the Sables coaching department ahead of the World Cup qualifier at the end of the month.
ZRU failed to raise funds for the team to travel to Messina where they would have played against South African provincial sides as part of preparations for the England 2015 qualifiers that will be hosted by Madagascar.
The only difference in the Sables’ preparations for this year Africa Cup Group 1A, which serves as the global showcase’s qualifiers, is the inclusion of Swart in the technical team yet other countries have upped the ante.
Kenya invested about US$1 million in their team’s preparations which saw their team play in the Vodacom Cup in South Africa while they also engaged Western province last week.
Namibia also play Western Province this weekend as part of their preparations while the hosts have lined up a match against a French side.
Yet the Sables failed to make a road trip to Messina 18kms from the Beitbridge border post.
The team will make do with a 10-day training camp and Swart will work with the team for three days.
The training camp is set to begin in Harare on Monday and will run until June 26, with the Sables set to play Madagascar on June 29 in their first match before they engage Namibia and round off with Kenya.
The table-toppers get an automatic ticket to England while second place finishers will have another shot with a play-off against a European side.
Swart is currently working for South African Rugby as a scrum coach and selector.
Previously Swart was the scrum coach for the Sharks franchise, but currently also works with Sanzar developing coaches and referees — specifically with the scrum.
“The Zimbabwe Sables coaching staff have prioritised a scrum specialist to be brought into the technical team after their last internationals versus Namibia and Kenya in November 2013”, reads a statement released by ZRU yesterday.
“Balie’s expertise in this department will look to provide the Sables with a more competitive scrum at the World Cup Qualifiers, a department the Namibian team in particular may look to exert their previous dominance in.”
But after the same Whindoek tournament in Namibia last year Sables coach Dawson noted that the team needed to play more matches together ahead of the qualifiers.
Despite their desperate need for game time the team will go into battle without any.
Swart will work with a technical team that includes director of coaching Liam Middleton, head coach Brendan Dawson and his assistant Cyprian Mandenge.