The Sunday News
Mehluli Sibanda Senior Sports Reporter
FORMER Zimbabwe national 15s rugby team coach Brendan Dawson is sad while at the same time happy to leave the Zimbabwe Sables coaching position which has been given to Cyprian Mandenge.
Dawson’s contract as Sables coach expired at the end of last year with the former national team captain not making himself available for consideration after seven years at the helm.
He was replaced by his then assistant Mandenge, who has been handed the task of coaching the country’s flagship rugby national team.
Dawson was not keen to disclose the reasons for not making himself available for re-appointment, a development that had led to speculation that he might have been forced to make that decision.
It is believed that some individuals within the Zimbabwe Rugby Union felt that there was a need to get a new coach since Dawson had failed to secure Zimbabwe a place at the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England.
Dawson, however, said he was happy with what he had achieved with the team in the seven years that he was in charge. Some of his notable achievements include winning the 2009 Confederation of African Rugby Southern Trophy in Botswana, clinching the Africa Cup Division 1C in 2010, Africa Cup Division 1B in 2011 which earned the team promotion into the Africa Cup Division 1A which is the elite group in 2011.
During the same year, Zimbabwe won the Victoria Cup, a three nation competition also featuring Kenya as well as Uganda with wins over the two east African countries home and away. The following year, the Dawson coached Sables beat Uganda 22-18 to win the Africa Cup in Tunisia before they surrendered their title with a 29-17 defeat to Kenya in the 2013 final in Madagascar.
Last year, Dawson almost led the Sables to the Rugby World Cup. Playing against countries with better sponsorship, Zimbabwe hammered Madagascar, lost by four points to Namibia and beat Kenya to finish second to Namibia who automatically qualified. Zimbabwe went on to play Russia in an inter-confederation playoff which the Russians won 23-15.
When Dawson took over as Sables coach from Christopher Lampard in 2007, Zimbabwe were ranked number 52 in the world. At that time, the team was losing to countries such as Zambia and Madagascar.
Dawson with little financial resources turned around the team’s fortunes and the results are there for all to see, as Zimbabwe are now ranked number 26 in the world, the best African side after South Africa and Namibia.
“I am happy with what I achieved with the team, I tried my level best. If we had better resources we would have qualified for the World Cup. We had no warm up matches but we resoundingly beat Madagascar, lost by four points to Namibia and beat a better prepared Kenya.
“We made one or two mistakes in Madagascar but we tried our best, I am so sad about it,’’ said Dawson.
The 47-year-old will not be lost to rugby coaching as this year he is going to be helping out at Falcon College in Esigodini where his son plays for the private school’s Under-16 team.
Dawson wished his successor Mandenge, whom he believes was the next best available option, all the best in the job.