TONDERAI Chavhanga, the record-breaking Springbok, was one of the very first big names in world rugby, back in April, to applaud the appointment of Peter de Villiers as Zimbabwe’s new rugby coach.
By Enock Muchinjo
Chavhanga, who earned two of his Test caps under de Villiers, told reporters five months ago that Zimbabwe had the chance to “re-write history” by qualifying for the World Cup under the South African coach’s guidance.
The World Cup was indeed the ultimate dream at the beginning of the day, amid the pomp and fanfare of securing the signature of a former Springbok coach.
As for Chavhanga — despite representing another country and never having had the privilege of playing at the game’s greatest showpiece event himself — seeing Zimbabwe in Japan next year was still a matter of great national pride for this brilliant former player who always wears his heart on his sleeve when it comes to his country of origin.
It might have come out of the blue for many, but it did not surprise me at all, knowing the man, when Chavhanga — speaking during a South African rugby show this week — called for the sacking of de Villiers as Zimbabwe coach following a disastrous season in which the Sables lurched from one shambles to the next and diced with relegation.
Chavhanga, like de Villiers, is a man of strong Christian faith. Publicly stating a conviction of that nature, aware of the kind of reactions it could draw, was definitely something that came from the heart and to his credit, Chavhanga still insisted even in his criticism that the appointment of de Villiers had been a “noble and good gesture” by Zimbabwe at the time it happened.
In saying so, Chavhanga further helps us fully understand the extent of disappointment over the amount of goodwill thrown by many in the direction of the former Bok coach, which astonishingly was not received with both hands by de Villiers.
It is incredible how de Villiers seemed so determined to fail in this World Cup mission, and for many of us following proceedings — even those like Chavhanga who would normally choose to be diplomatic in such situations — it was horribly frustrating and bewildering in equal measure.
What frustrates me personally is that de Villiers is a really great chap, but who just seems to have too many ideas in his head.
When he was officially unveiled back in February, he said all the right things. His attitude charmed us all.
He said he was not coming to be a “saviour” for Zimrugby, that he was coming to lead, not to be a Messiah.
He said he would use any mode of available transport to go look for players with the right skill-set and pedigree to qualify for the World Cup.
But then he started doing the exact opposite of what he had preached. His attitude became that of patronising superiority, and he stuck to his guns against the best advice of a lot of good rugby people in this country.
De Villiers perhaps thought he could become the magician and turn into African champions, overnight, a group of players who were clearly not quite yet there in terms of requirements of Test rugby.
And when he realised he could not, instead of making changes whilst there was still time, he became even more egoistical about it and chose to bury his head in the sand.
Worse, he then unilaterally altered the nation’s aspirations, deciding that the World Cup, for now, should not be the priority for Zimbabwe.