AS we are still nursing the heartache of our cricket team’s failure to qualify for the forthcoming World Cup, Zimbabwe has now been given an opportunity to host yet another jamboree to uplift the spirit of passionate sporting nation.
Not on the same scale as the cricket showcase we had a few months ago, but the Olympics Sevens Rugby Qualifiers to be held in Harare next weekend are a big deal for the country.
But spare a thought for the players.
What has the Zimbabwe Rugby Union (ZRU), the governing body of the sport, done to try and give the boys maximum support for a tournament of this magnitude?
The talent is definitely there, but the players are not afforded the right platform and resources to perform to the best of their ability.
South Africa’s Blitzbokke, the best team on the continent, will be in Harare for the tournament. All of their players are professionally contracted. Why can we also not do that as a nation?
Schools sides in Zimbabwe are well taken of, and have more sponsors than national teams. Look at Falcon College, with InnBucks, HP and others supporting them this past season.
It is because corporates go where their brand is most visible, where they get the best return on investment.
Rugby in Zimbabwe at national level needs to do that. This is no longer an elitist sport. Let’s bring it to the grassroots.
The World Cup, the biggest event in the sport, started on Friday. South Africa have a team there that represents all cultural backgrounds of their country. They now call rugby their “rainbow sport” because the Springboks have players from all walks of life – from Zwide to Stellenbosch.
They will all be fighting for the common cause of a sport that is now uniting a nation.
Let’s take cue, and pour resources in our Zimbabwe teams, to incentivise the youngsters to bring their God-given sporting talents to rugby.
For players to spend time at the training ground, they need to see the benefits, otherwise they will go elsewhere.
The Blitzbokke spend five hours per day in practice and because of that, they perfect their skills. But it is not that they are better, or more special than us. Even the Kenyans have professionalised their Sevens game and their players get supplements, medical aid, and all the other stuff. In a full contact sport like rugby, you cannot put body on the line without medical aid and a salary.
So spare a thought for that Zimbabwean player, who does not know if he gets paid or not after being hit around a rugby field. Spare a thought for that coach, who has put his daily routine aside for a game he so loves.
Spare a thought for that fan, who knows what is happening behind the scenes but still invests their emotions in the team.
But regardless, we can fight the odds. We cannot wallow in our emotions. We can fight a good fight. So let’s rally behind the boys for the Olympics qualifiers. Who knows, just maybe, we can win a good fight and put our country on the map.
Let’s do it for our champions like Heath Streak. May his soul rest in peace. He fought a good fight. Let’s do it for Richard Tsimba and the class of 1987 at the Rugby World Cup.
Let’s do it for the Golden Girls of 1980, who brought the field hockey gold medal from the Moscow Olympics. If they can do it, against expectation, we can do it also.
*Guest columnist Chris Tavonesa, a NewsHawks contributor, is a sports historian and rugby enthusiast.