The Sunday News
Mehluli Sibanda, Senior Sports Reporter
ZIMBABWE’S participation in the Victoria Cup is paying off with the Sables now ranked 33 in the World Rugby rankings as they continue to make a steady rise.
The Brendan Dawson-coached Sables have a 100 percent record in the Victoria Cup with three wins from as many matches. Zimbabwe beat Zambia 39-10, Uganda 31-26 and last Saturday they saw off Kenya 30-29 at Hartsfield, their first win over the Kenyans since 2015. The Sables still have three more matches to play at home against Uganda at the end of this month before they clash with Kenya and Zambia away.
Zimbabwe Rugby Union (ZRU) president, Aaron Jani is excited by the progress made by the Sables in the Victoria Cup. He outlined that the aim is to make it to the 2023 Rugby World Cup. That he believes can be achieved by securing all players who qualify to represent Zimbabwe who are playing outside the country.
“As a union we are excited, it shows we are moving in the right direction, we are not yet where we want to be but we are certainly moving in the right direction. We are looking at 2023 as our goal, our goal is to qualify for the World Cup and this is all part of the preparations in terms of game time, in terms of funding. All the players we can find throughout the world who are Zimbabwean and are eligible to play for the Sables,’’ Jani said.
The ZRU boss said when they assumed office there was no league and the Sables were also far behind in the rankings and finding it hard to carry out their fixtures. As a way of addressing the situation, ZRU introduced a Super Six League, made up of teams from Bulawayo, Harare and Mutare.
“When we came into office there was no league, the Sables were down in the rankings and we were failing to fulfil fixtures so we decided that we were going to introduce a competitive league and we introduced the Super Six League,” he said.
Seeing that there is no Gold Cup this year, ZRU decided to enter the Zimbabwe Academy into South Africa’s SuperSport Rugby Challenge and then the Victoria Cup.
“In addition we decided that since there was no Gold Cup for this year, we were going to enter the SuperSport Challenge to give our academy side the opportunity to compete at the very highest level and to also get a lot of game time.
“Our entry into the Victoria Cup is part of that building exercise and we are glad that at least now we are beginning to see some structure, we are beginning to see some sort of development. It’s given the opportunities to the technical team to look at the type of players we have, the areas that we need to improve on, the positions where we are lacking and need to find players,’’ Jani said.
His hope is that the Sables will win the Victoria Cup, a competition they won in 2011 when it was last competed for.
“For us this is a step in the right direction and we hope that we are going to be victorious in the Victoria Cup and then continue with the SuperSport Challenge next year, continue with the league next year and continue to give our potential Sables players an opportunity to have game time and an opportunity to be seen and be part of the core squad for the Sables.”
Having struggled in last year’s Gold Cup, one thing is for sure, the Sables are breathing a new lease of life under Dawson with the Victoria Cup looking likely to be heading to Zimbabwe next month. — @Mdawini_29