Petros Kausiyo, Harare Bureau
ZIMBABWE Rugby Union have outlined yet another audacious plan aimed at enhancing the competitiveness of the domestic game with the association’s executive moving to lure corporate partners to help them harness and retain local talent.
After years of decline in the quality of the local leagues, the ZRU’s new leadership want to revive the domestic game and ensure talented players are not lost to other countries as soon as they leave high school and tertiary institutions.
ZRU president, Aaron Jani, revealed yesterday that his executive had come up with a plan to incentivise the players, which would also make their availability for the Sables easy.
Zimbabwean players abroad have previously turned their backs on the Sables duty with the national senior side having over the last few years declining into a shadow of what they used to be.
In fact, it has been the Sevens squad that have been Zimbabwe’s flag bearers during the years that the Sables tumbled from the radar of serious rugby teams.
During that period the Cheetahs did not disappoint either with their major achievement being securing a place at the Sevens World Cup and also being voted the best team for 2017 at the Annual National Sports Awards.
But Jani and his crew want the Sables to reclaim their spot as a force on the African continent and have set the national team’s revival mission among their major priorities.
Having played for the Sables, Jani knows well the positive impact that a strong senior national team has on the development of the game in the country.
Jani said their assertion had been confirmed by the huge number of players that have caught national coach Peter De Villiers’ eye and have been featuring in the enlarged squads that have been preparing for Zimbabwe’s World Cup qualifiers.
The Sables will open their bid for a place at Japan 2019 with a home clash against Morocco which Jani confirmed has having been slated for Harare Sports Club on June 16.
A Local Organising Committee led by Harare province chairman, Roger Woodward, has been tasked with putting in place all the measures for the successful staging of the game at Sports Club.
His Bulawayo counterpart Thulani “Dubula’’ Tabulawa will also do the same in the second city.
“Yes we have discovered so much local talent which is very pleasing. Players just need good and regular coaching, game time and someone who believes in them.
“As it looks now, our squad comprises about 80 percent locally-based players. This augurs very well for Zimbabwe rugby’s future.
“Our task as ZRU now is to make sure they stay and get employment here. We will be engaging corporates who would like to partner with the ZRU so that they can engage some of our players as brand ambassadors.
“Win, win partnerships are imperative for sustainability,’’ Jani said.
He said they wanted to emulate global trends and ensure players were contracted to the union on a full-time basis.
De Villiers has sought to widen his player-base and is set to take a host of the local players to South Africa for a training camp before he finalises the side that will feature in the 2018 Rugby Africa Gold Cup which are serving as the continent’s World Cup qualifiers.
Once they get down to business with the home date against Morocco, the Sables face a busy qualifying schedule that will see them travelling to Nairobi to face Kenya on June 30, and another away assignment against Tunisia a week later on July 7.
The Sables will then return home to host Namibia on August 4 and wind off their qualification bid with an away assignment against Uganda in Kampala.