HERE lies Zimbabwe’s national rugby team: Died in 2017 at Windhoek, Namibia, on July 15. Cremated at Bulawayo, Zimbabwe, on July 22. Buried at Harare, Zimbabwe, on July 29.
Sports Panorama with Enock Muchinjo
I could go on with this eulogy, adding that the ashes have since been exhumed from their place of entombment and ready for reburial tomorrow at Kampala, Uganda — thousands of miles away from grief-stricken followers. There could be a desperate effort perhaps by the killers to wipe out sad reminder of their gruesome act.
More villainous is the realisation now that we were duped. The anger in the Zimbabwean rugby community is totally understandable. We were all hoodwinked by a clueless administration that just could not wait to get into office on promises of reform, yet the motivation really was whatever sweeteners that come with those positions.
Fifteen months after assuming office and pledging runaway success, Nyararai Sibanda and his lieutenants at the beleaguered Zimbabwe Rugby Union (ZRU) have been a spectacular flop.
Instead of taking the game forward, Sibanda, who has been the ZRU’s president for over a year now, has only succeeded in undoing the wonderful work done by his predecessor John Falkenberg — who had reclaimed Zimbabwean rugby and the Sables’ place at the pinnacle of the game in Africa.
While Falkenberg’s team of competent men (and a woman) had restored the lost glory of 20 years ago, Sibanda and company have effectively now set us back those two decades, back to the dreadful failures of the past.
And now the silence is deafening from the devil’s advocates in Sibanda’s noisy campaign corner, 15 months after they threw mud all over opponents and shouted themselves hoarse, obviously rubbing hands with glee at the prospects of crumbs from the table.
An administration and coaching staff that had taken Zimbabwe onto the threshold of World Cup qualification in 2014 and brought pride back to the Sables brand was wilfully spoken ill of and, for some very strange reasons, portrayed as representing everything wrong about Zimbabwean rugby.
The hardworking team of administrators was hauled up before kangaroo courts on charges as flimsy as personal dislike and old vendettas.
Very good and well-meaning men with a different view on the direction ought to be taken were labelled sellouts behind their backs and conferred with even more nastier tags for daring to simply take the side of those in whose hands they felt rugby was safer.
Fifteen months later, we have been forced to come full circle. Zimrugby is back in the wrong hands.
The Africa Cup catastrophe is a direct offshoot of the administrative bankruptcy of the ZRU of today under Sibanda.
A lot of things at ZRU today are astonishing beyond measure, but going into an important continental championship with a one-man coaching department takes the gold medal for the kind of madness that takes place there.
Yup, you heard right, just one coach on the team’s bench! How clueless can a national rugby federation get?
In an era of the scrum coach, the defence coach, the skills coach — you name them — all these professionals at the disposal of rugby teams these days put there to analyse an individual’s game, all you have is one battling head coach for that matter! On top of that you have someone at the union insulting everybody’s intelligence by trying to blame the players.
I can only imagine the reaction of those behind the noble cause called the Sables Trust. These are very good guys who share with the rugby-loving public of this country the vision of continental supremacy and the World Cup.
Over the last two months they have poured financial resources, scarce as they are, into the national team.
It is disheartening that such tremendous efforts as theirs should go to waste because the people in the national sports association they’ve chosen to partner are not on the same wavelength — devoid of the creative energies and ingenuity of their predecessors.
The Sables Trust had lifted a heavy burden off the ZRU’s shoulders by committing to boost the team’s technical bench and fly in from abroad top-class players to play for Sables.
Given such a support system at ZRU’s disposal, it is scandalous that selection and coaching has been the team’s biggest letdown in a season that could end tomorrow in tears, with the Sables out of Africa’s top-flight rugby league, and out of World Cup reckoning.
I’m amazed how the ZRU and the coach spurned such a wonderful gesture of goodwill by their partners, and ending up presiding over such horrendous results.
It will take a miracle to avoid the chop in Kampala tomorrow, quite a miraculous rise from the dead indeed.
Oh dear Lord how badly we need that miracle. Whatever happens tomorrow though should not blind anybody and stop heads from rolling.
This ZRU is clearly a monument to failure.