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WITH the Sables’ showdown against Russia in the World Cup qualifier play-off just 16 days away, Cheetahs and Old Georgians backliner Justin Coles believes infighting in the game should stop if the team is to be a success.

Selection has always been an issue when it comes to the national team, especially in rugby, where some people are quick to throw the race card if left out of the touring squad.

Former Sables manager Losson Mtongwiza claimed there was institutional racism in the Zimbabwe Rugby Union.

Coles says it’s difficult to see how the game will move forward as there are a lot of grudges and agendas devouring the sport.

The former Zimbabwe Under-20 and St John’s College winger took to Facebook where he expressed his concern over racism, grudges and comments passed by people who claim to have rugby at heart.

“It is extremely sad to see that in our country this wonderful game that I love is being torn apart by personal grudges held against certain individuals and that race has become such a large barrier for Zimbabwean Rugby’s success.

“As a player I have been fortunate enough to experience the game in many different environments.

“From the local NRL to the international stage, I have played alongside people from diverse backgrounds and one thing which never stood in the way was wealth, status, religion and RACE,” said Coles.

Over the years, selection has also been a very topical issue from the Sables right down to the Under-13 side that takes part in the Craven Week schools festival in South Africa.

“There will always be those who criticise their national team when times are hard and there will never be a selection where everyone is happy with the team that is selected,” said Coles.

“As soon as you put the jersey on, it makes no difference where you come from, how much money you have, or the colour of your skin.

“All that matters is that you trust the men on either side of you and you would do anything not to let them down.

“The same goes for the coach and technical staff who receive very little praise when things go well but when times are tough they are heavily scrutinised. HEAVILY.”

Coles said no coach who would select players that are not up to the task.

“As a Zimbabwean rugby player I have immense respect for every man who steps onto the field for club and country because I know how difficult it is to be motivated when there is such little reward for the time spent training and giving your all on the field week in and week out.

“But notice how you will still go to HSC, OH, and OG’s every weekend and watch the players playing their hearts out. We play in hope that one day things will be better in terms of monetary rewards, but this is something that is not going to happen overnight and we should not be fooled into thinking that by changing a coach or by questioning the ZRU so severely things will be resolved by tomorrow.”

Having represented Zimbabwe Under-20 in two Junior World Rugby Trophy tournaments, played for the Cheetahs on the IRB World Sevens Series legs and at one stage based in England before moving to South Africa, Coles knows how it feels like to get a motivational message when going to represent the country.

“By writing a post (on Facebook) which attacks certain players we are destroying our national team because players begin to question (themselves) whether they are good enough when they read these posts (which they do read while on tour).

“Why not just support the team sent and uplift them as much as possible before they play?

“We need to be more encouraging towards all players because they are not benefiting in any way from playing for their clubs or the nation and are simply doing their best for the love of the sport and trying to improve rugby in our country.

“Please, let’s all try to take this game above all others in the country in terms of the support we show to our players from all regions and background and not base our perceptions of people on where they come from or the colour of their skin.

“If we can’t find it within ourselves to put the game of rugby above our personal grudges and beliefs then we are fighting a losing battle,” he said.

Source : The Herald