HARARE – Old HARARIANS coach Cyprian Mandenge is on cloud nine after guiding the Green Machine to their first national rugby title in eight years.
OH turned on the style in the second half and rallied from behind to edge out rivals Old Georgians 29-27 in the Lion Lager National Rugby League (NRL) final at Milton Park on Saturday.
Mandenge's move from city rivals Harare Sports Club at the beginning of the season has been largely credited with the change of fortunes at the Old Boys, with the new champions exhibiting an attractive brand of rugby on Saturday, like they had done throughout the season, dumping their customary of a hard, physical approach for a much more expensive style.
The highly-rated gaffer was however happy to share the credit with his players.
“The guys really worked hard throughout the entire season, they had self-belief,” the Sables assistant coach told the Daily News.
“They had fighting spirit. They showed it once more on Saturday when we were down 24-9 (at half time). We were making a lot or errors and we were not playing our natural game. We managed to bounce back. It takes character and guts to do that.
“The guys who coached before me are the ones who made this season a success, they laid down all the foundation and the senior guys really worked in making this side formidable.”
Mandenge added that the achievement is the beginning of much bigger things to come at Old Hararians.
“We hope we can retain all the players we had this year and build on that for next season,” he said.
“It easy to get to the top but hard to stay there. We just need to work twice harder than we did this year and keep going.”
The Green Machine’s old guard of Costa Dinha and Alfred Sairai was very instrumental against OGs, proving there is no substitute for experience, grabbing the game by the scruff of the neck when the chips seemed to be down.
Halfback Tichaona “Banja” Chidongo, like fine wine, keeps getting better with age. His immaculate ball distribution and pin-point passing proved to be the defining moment of the final.
The Old Boys were furious in defence, especially in the second half were they kept their opponents at bay with a lot of crunching tackles.
Skipper Tichafara Makwanya showed why he is arguably the best flyhalf in the land as he controlled proceeding with his finesse and vision. His precise boot made the Dragons pay dearly.
Old Georgians’ game plan of using forward play was disrupted in the second half as they were starved of possession and had no ball to work with. In their attempt to reclaim possession, they lost their shape and were penalised quite a number of times.
Flyhalf Boyd Rous’s kicking game was completely off in the final as he missed a penalty and two conversions, which proved costly in the end for OGs.