The Zimbabwe Rugby Union (ZRU) intends to use the current period of inactivity, which has been prompted by the Covid-19 pandemic, to restructure the national teams ahead of their World Cup and Africa Cup campaigns.
The union will be taking giant steps in implementing the vision they have had — that of identifying and appointing coaches who would help introduce a playing system unique to Zimbabwe.
Both World Rugby and Rugby Africa have often noted that Zimbabwe’s game is long on potential, but short on delivery.
ZRU president Aaron Jani, however, believes that establishing a brand of rugby that Zimbabwe can be identified with, and which suits the bulk of the talent the country is endowed with, would be the first major step in ensuring the Sables and other national teams such as the Cheetahs re-emerge as forces in Africa.
It is against this background that the ZRU last week wrote to their national team’s technical crews, announcing their plans.
But ZRU chief executive Sifiso Made, however, indicated that Sables coach Brandon Dawson and his technical team, which includes former Springboks speed merchant Tonderai Chavhanga and Jason Maritz, would not be affected by the process as they had been recently engaged by the union.
Dawson, who guided the Sables to Victoria Cup success last year, bounced back to the side he also captained as a player following the departure of Peter De Villiers.
In his communication to the coaches on Thursday, Made said their technical committee headed by Bright Chavandire would conduct the exercise.
“I hope I find you well during these very trying Covid-19 times.
“As the Zimbabwe Rugby Union, we truly value your contribution to the game of rugby and to the Union,” said Made.
“I also write to advise you that the Union will be retooling during this Covid-19 period and since all national assignments have been shelved, we have to look towards the 2021 season and beyond. In preparation for the 2021 season, we will be advertising all positions, save for the Sables technical team who have already been restructured.”
He said the idea was to optimally allocate coaching and administrative resources and align them to the flagship team — the Sables — in terms of style, brand of rugby and ethos.
“Our aim is to make the transition from age grade to the Sables a seamless process for both ladies and men. We must develop our own brand of rugby. A Zimbabwe brand of rugby.
“This transition will be done independently by our technical committee, which includes the headmaster in charge of schools rugby . . .” wrote Made.
Jani said the overall plan was to ensure excellence by the national teams.
“We need to restructure for the future and we hope these moves will give us the result we want, which is to qualify for the 2023 World Cup and to improve our rankings in all our national teams,’’ Jani said.
A former Zimbabwe international himself, Jani also emphasised the need for uniformity in the way national teams play while noting the significance of separating the XVs and Sevens (Cheetahs) teams.
Unlike top nations like South Africa, New Zealand and Australia, the ZRU have often found some of the national team players caught between Sables and Cheetahs duties.
“We don’t have a uniform coaching style or ethos that will promote common values and techniques. As a result, we do not have continuity and don’t share common values.
“We have some coaches who have failed to deliver for various reasons. There are some technical teams who are not a natural fit, leading to conflict and strife.
“There is also some discipline issues in some sections. We educated and trained a lot of coaches and we believe all coaches must get a chance at national duty deployment,’’ he said.
Dawson’s contract will expire in 2023, by which time the former eighthman is expected to have guided the Sables to the World Cup.
“Contracts for the Sables technical team expire in 2023. This is a unique opportunity to align all the lower teams so that we share the same values, general techniques and the move to Sables or Lady Sables becomes seamless.
Jani added: “Current coaching contracts expire end of the year, but since all national assignments have been cancelled, it means we will not have any assignments for 2020, giving us ample time to implement.
“We have studied the rugby models of South Africa and New Zealand thoroughly.
“We sent our national coach Brandon Dawson to New Zealand and we had him based in South Africa in 2019 for the SuperSport Challenge . . .
“It is now time for our national coach, our technical committee headed by Brighton Chivandire and the incoming coaches to sit down, agree and develop our own brand of rugby — the Zimbabwean style of rugby.”
The idea to separate the Sevens from the longer version of the game had long been mooted.
The technical teams are presently being urged to “fully apply their minds to selecting the best possible coaches”.
ZRU would also be embarking on a programme to register all Zimbabwe players using two systems — ScrumiT and API — and this is expected to ensure that all eligible players for national duty are also in the register.
“In fact, I had a chat with Steph Nell (World Rugby) who has promised to assist in this regard.
“Once the Sevens coaches are identified, the director of rugby will develop a structure for domestic Sevens league. This is all part of the exercise and road towards professionalism and separation of disciplines,’’ Jani said.