Peter De Villiers’ landmark appointment as the new Sables coach has been received with excitement and optimism with former Zimbabwe Rugby Union president Tonderai Kadyautumbe and ex-national team mentor Godwin Murambiwa calling for support for the Association’s audacious bid for 2019 World Cup qualification.
The ZRU turned on a new leaf in their ambitions to breathe life into the Sables brand when they hired former Springboks coach De Villiers on an initial two-year deal. The union also looked at continuity and experience by appointing former Sables captain and coach Brendon Dawson as De Villiers’ assistant with the pair being mandated to try and guide the senior national team through the round-robin phase of the World Qualifiers.
A Tri-Nations winning coach with South Africa, De Villiers, will have his first competitive assignment on June 16 when Zimbabwe begin their Africa Gold Cup adventure with a home tie against Morocco. World Rugby and Rugby Africa are using the 2018 edition of the Africa Gold Cup as the qualifiers for the continent with the Cup winners getting an automatic place at the World Cup in Japan next year.
The second-placed side in the Africa Cup will enter the Repechage stage that involves play-off games against teams from Asia, South and North America and Europe. Kadyautumbe, who made history by becoming the first black president of the ZRU in 1999 and at 29, the youngest leader of the union, welcomed the decision by the union to lure De Villiers.
“Hopefully, this will raise the profile of the game. No matter what we do we should make resources available for the coach and his team because without resources you will not progress. But I must say congratulations to the ZRU for being bold and going for a top guy,” Kadyatumbe said.
He also believes the Sables have enough arsenal to put a strong fight against Namibia, Kenya, Tunisia, Uganda and Morocco in search of a ticket to the global rugby showcase. A ticket to the World Cup has been elusive for successive Sables teams since the country’s last appearance at the 1991 showpiece where Dawson scored a try in the 55-11 defeat by Ireland in their opening Pool B match.
“I think we have got the players to match our opponents and what has been lacking is the structure to prepare for the success.
“We had certain players who were snubbing the Sables but now they will come and if players are well looked after they will give it their best on the field and I am sure confident that with the set-up which the ZRU have now, they will achieve this,” Kadyautumbe said.
Murambiwa, who became the first black Zimbabwean coach of the Sables in 2001, also backed the union’s decision to go for a partnership of De Villiers and Dawson. The former Old Hararians coach also enjoyed successes with the national Under-18 and Under-20 sides as well as his beloved Prince Edward Tigers before quitting “to focus more on business and family”.
“Given the events that have happened in the last couple of years it is refreshing to see that the new executive has these ambitions. I was fortunate enough to have been on the panel that interviewed Peter and I can tell you that he is a very passionate and knowledgeable man who understands a lot about Zimbabwean rugby.
“We now have to hit the ground running because the qualifiers are around the corner. The fact that the coach is going to be based here means he will be hands on and we can only hope for the best,” Murambiwa said.