BRENDAN Dawson has refused to be drawn into a public spat with Peter de Villiers, who fired him as Zimbabwe assistant coach last year for supposedly undermining the South African’s authority during his tumultuous stint with the Sables.
ENOCK MUCHINJO IN CAPE TOWN
But the former Zimbabwe captain was however prepared to open up about how he feels he has frequently been subjected to unfair criticism despite taking the Sables to the brink of 2015 Wold Cup qualification in addition to sharply improving the team’s world rankings during his tenure as head coach between 2007 and 2014.
“I took this team from position 59 in the world to 24,” Dawson told travelling journalists here. “I took us just points from qualifying for the World Cup. But all I get is insults. I just cannot understand that.”
Under Dawson, Zimbabwe missed out on qualification for the 2015 World Cup by a mere bonus point, after which the ex-Sables skipper ended his six-year reign as the country’s coach.
Cyprian Mandenge was the coach before Zimbabwe hired de Villiers at the beginning of 2018, giving the South African the task of taking the Sables to their first World Cup since 1991.
The relationship between the Zimbabwe Rugby Union (ZRU) and de Villiers then ended in dramatic fallout after the former Springbok coach presided over a dismal qualification campaign.
The reasons given by the ZRU for the 61-year-old’s sacking — unauthorised absence from work — have however hogged the headlines worldwide, shifting attention from de Villiers’ unsuccessful tenure with the Sables.
And now Dawson, who has been coaching a local outfit in the SuperSport Rugby Challenge, is being tipped to reclaim the full Zimbabwe job for a second term.
But the 51-year-old decorated former international doesn’t feel he has always enjoyed the backing of all stakeholders in the game despite his efforts.
“Some people say ‘why is Dawson back, what has he done?’ All everybody wants to do is to chop us off our feet. Guys do not bother to look at my record at all.”
Addressing the reporters, Dawson insisted he received a raw deal from his band of critics in his previous Sables stint — pleading for a fair evaluation of his coaching ability, track-record and intentions.
“You guys in the press have an important role, to say ‘hey, come on guys, I know what Dawson is trying to do, rebuilding Zimrugby.’”
Dawson said he was capable of taking Zimbabwe to the World Cup in 2023 if he is given another opportunity.
“I almost did it once, and I can do it again,” he said. “There is nothing greater for me. I played in the last World Cup for Zimbabwe (in 1991), and I want to go there again.”
Asked if he ever feels put off by some pretty strong criticism towards him, Dawson answered: “My wife is always asking why, ‘why, Brendan, why?’ I don’t know why, to be honest. I love to be involved with people. Zimrugby is in my DNA. I love helping people. I love seeing Cleopas (Kundiona) going to Sharks. I like to be able to change a life or two. It frustrates me when I get insulted, when I get into the newspapers for this and that. It upsets me.
People don’t know who I am, they just assume. I’ve got no agenda. I’m not making millions of dollars out of this. I think it’s actually a good thing there is no money in Zimrugby because people won’t say ‘he’s after the money’.”
Dawson added that Zimbabwean rugby will reap huge benefits from the country’s debut SuperSport Challenge season.
“Look at Jerry (Jaravaza), he’s playing fly-half in the SuperSport Challenge, at that sort of level. Where else has he played there except at Old Georgians in Harare? Nowhere,” Dawson said.
“We’ve seen growth, seeing players developing from this to that. Look at the conditioning of the players now. Look at a guy like Blithe (Mavesere). In just five weeks he’s added 11kg, that’s 11kgs of quality. These are the guys who are going to take us to where we want to be. We just need to do the right things. Once you put these things together then there could be no excuses.”