Mandenge doesn’t smile easily

THE Zimbabwe Rugby Union has lined up two friendlies for the Sables before the men’s senior rugby team start their Africa Cup campaign next month – but gaffer Cyprian Mandenge is not smiling.

Mandenge has over 180 players on his database but he cannot have a closer look at those he has earmarked for the national team.

“Money is the biggest issue here,” said the Sables coach. “We have a database of over 182 players, plying their rugby abroad and eager to play for Zimbabwe but we are unable to bring them here for assessment because the union is broke. “These guys are professionals and every time they come here, it’s a game they miss and money we take away from their pockets.”

Things are so bad that even having the locally based players meet for camp is not possible.“I have also failed to track some of the guys based in South Africa and saw my proposal for more friendly games against stronger opposition, or at the very least a game between the northern side and the southern guys turned down.

“While I do appreciate the efforts being made by the union behind the scenes to secure a sponsor, I believe both the Government and the corporate world have failed us,” added Mandenge.

Zimbabwe is expected kick off its Africa Cup campaign next month with trips to Senegal and Namibia.

The Sables will then host Kenya and Tunisia in Bulawayo and Harare on July 22 and 29 respectively, before rounding it off in Uganda on August 5. Before all that, the Sables are scheduled to play two international friendlies against Botswana and Zambia with the games slated for May 27 and June 3.

While this is a drastic improvement on last year, the two friendlies are not enough to make the 47-year-old gaffer happy.

“While I do appreciate the efforts being made to ensure the team plays at least two friendlies, it doesn’t really help if I don’t have all the players I intend to use during the Africa Cup campaign. This is the time we should be ironing out combinations, game plans and assessing the fitness levels of every player in the squad,” said Mandenge.

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