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AS focus shifts from Sevens to the XVs rugby where Zimbabwe is aiming to qualify for the 2015 World Cup, the Zimbabwe Rugby Union should take control of the game if there is going to be light at the end of the tunnel. Led by president John Falkenberg, and his two vice-presidents, Nyararai Sibanda and Colleen de Jong, the ZRU must learn from their mistakes in the countdown to the Hong Kong debacle.

That director of rugby Liam Middleton declared himself coach of the Cheetahs was not only wrong but very unprofessional and that Falkenberg, de Jong and Sibanda could not take action only makes rugby business a circus.

Failing to qualify as a World Seven Series core member was the last thing on everyone’s mind but it all boiled down to how the Cheetahs prepared for what was supposed to be their crowning moment of glory.

Technical inferiority cost the Cheetahs a place in a tournament that was perceived as the easiest qualifiers for core membership status given that none of the core members were to play in the play-offs against the potential qualifiers as was the case last year.

Last year Zimbabwe won the Hong Kong second tier competition and had to play the bottom-placed core membership sides with Gilbert Nyamutsamba as coach.

Somehow the Zimbabwe Rugby Union decided to change that winning formula.

Middleton declared himself coach of the Cheetahs before a local tournament three weeks ago and no document or official response and reason was given to Nyamutsamba as to why the British expatriate had taken over his job.

As if the ZRU was in agreement with Middleton’s amateurish antics, they never took any action against the coach or held him to account for his words.

He was left to lead the Cheetahs in Hong Kong where he failed dismally, reaching only the quarter-finals.

But this was the third time, in as many tournaments, that the ZRU had failed to act against Middleton’s actions having pushed Nyamutsamba off the train last December for the Port Elizabeth leg of the World Series and the Zimbabwe invitational tournament prior to the Hong Kong disaster.

Last year he reduced Sables assistant coach Cyprian “Supa” Mandenge to a “water boy” when Sables toured Namibia, coach Brandon Dawson looked more of an assistant coach while Middleton ran the show.

Definitely, if this trend continues then Falkenberg and his board do not want the Sables to qualify for next year’s World Cup tournament in England.

Like machines in chain production, each man in the ZRU should just stick to their duties and roles, of course helping each other where need be and not override everyone else.

The Sables are already lagging behind in their Africa Cup and World Cup qualifier preparations.

Zimbabwe are expected to play Kenya, Madagascar and Namibia in the four-team round robin competition this coming winter in Antananarivo but it is the duo of Namibia and Kenya who have shown they are serious of qualifying for the World Cup.

Kenya are playing in the Vodacom Cup, which is the third most prestigious tournament after Super Rugby and the Currie Cup in South Africa, but the level of competition in the tournament is higher than that of the Africa Cup.

Kenya are in the Southern Section of the competition where they are playing the likes of Border Bulldogs, Western Province, South Western Districts Eagles, Sharks XV, Eastern Province Kings and Free State XV.

But it is a rather sad story for Zimbabwe. The local league has not even started, no players have been notified by the coaches of their intention to be in the extended training squad, only a handful are said to be in a high performance centre that is limited to Harare.

Players based outside Harare do not know what is happening but ZRU media and marketing consultant David Crouch says: “There are a number of players that are in the high performance centre and the Sables will start full preparation once Liam Middleton is back from Hong Kong Sevens and the players will get into camp around May 11.

“On their way to Madagascar the Sables are expected to play some games with foreign teams as part of their preparations for the Africa Cup.”

Namibia have not made it easy for Zimbabwe either, beating the Sables twice in their invitational tournament over the past two years.

This, as if we needed any reminder, shows that Zimbabwe has a lot of catch up to do.

Source : The Herald