HARARE – The recent upsurge in the number of competitive matches partaken by Zimbabwe’s rugby team is a welcome development, a gesture of goodwill from the International Rugby Board, which has, at long-last, put us in our rightful place as a force to reckon with.
One way to repay the goodwill and justify our place in the group IRB has put us, is by fielding our strongest possible national side in these invitational tournaments, like the one Dubai next month.
Last week, the Zimbabwe Rugby Union sent a weakened side to the Windhoek Lager Tri-Nation series in Namibia. While that the Sables rookies gave a good account of themselves and emerged with both dignity and reputation intact, we cannot continue to make excuses for losing if we are to prove to the IRB — who apparently rate us so highly — that we don’t deserve to go back to the league of Kenya, Uganda, Madagascar and so forth.
For years, Zim Rugby has cried about the lack of competitive games against top-class opposition. Now that we are slowly getting the game time we’ve always longed for, this is a wonderful opportunity to show the world that this is where we belong.
With that in mind, my plea goes out to Zimbabwe Sevens boss Bruce Hobson — in the best interest of Zimbabwean rugby — to declare the Sevens players who are also key to the Fifteens set-up available for Sables selection for the Dubai trip.
Recent press reports indicate the Cheetahs contingent of the Sables may opt out of the Dubai Invitational Tournament to play in the second leg of the IRB World Sevens Series in South Africa early next month.
I won’t mince words: such a move is destructive and all very anti-progressive. What a terrible betrayal that will be to the IRB’s genuinely noble gesture of trying to help Zimbabwe’s Fifteens rugby claim its place on the world rugby map.
Hobson is a rugby man through and through, and apart from being a former Zimbabwe Rugby Union president, he is a patriot too.
I therefore have no reason to doubt his commitment to the greater cause.
Our strength as a rugby nation is judged by how well we do at the flagship level, which is the Sables level.
Hobson and his team have done exceptionally well over a period stretching for more than a decade to widen the player base for Sevens rugby in Zimbabwe and put the country on the map.
Here’s a brilliant opportunity now for them to test that pool by sending into the SA battle such emerging players as Tafadzwa Chitokwindo, Kilvan Magunje, Graham Kaulback, Mike Morris, Justin Coles, Johnno McWade — indeed the list is endless.
All these players have had a taste of international Sevens rugby in recent years and will undoubtedly rise to the occasion.
Such players as Jacques Leitao, Daniel Hondo, Gardner Nechironga, Wes Mbanje, Tangai Nemadire, Scotty Jones and Fortune Chipendo must be on that plane to Dubai with the Sables.