Connect with us

Support The NewsHawks

Piet Benade is becoming a Test coach for the first time


‘We need to be true to our DNA, but with proficient set-piece’



NEW Zimbabwe rugby coach Piet Benade will maintain the country’s traditional style of rugby, based on flair and speed, but says the Sables must work on their set-piece frailty if they are to be competitive in the Africa Cup in July and stay in contention for a place at the next World Cup.


42-year-old Benade must keep the Sables in the top-four of this year’s eight-team Africa Cup in Uganda for the Sables to have a chance at qualifying for the 2027 World Cup—and he is aware of the threat posed by closest rivals, especially if his Zimbabwean side doesn’t strengthen its weaker areas.

“We need to be true to our DNA and play a fast, powerful running brand of rugby, but backed up by a technically proficient set-piece,” Benade told The NewsHawks this week.

“There are things that happen in Test rugby that are very different from what happens in other rugby. This is magnified when you look at things in Zimbabwean context. We are blessed with genetically fast athletes who are agile and explosive and this is evident in the style of play you will see at schools and clubs. Very little importance is given to set-pieces, scrumming, mauling and tactical kicking. You can watch a whole day of the Under-20 league and not see a single team using a lineout drive. We enjoy open play where we use our athleticism and agility. We will need to embrace and accept the fact that to be competitive at Test level, we need to change our mindset and get a few more of these components working regularly at the senior level.”

Benade admitted that Zimbabwe’s domestic league is not at a level at the moment to draw players who can win games against some of the best sides in Africa, thereby the need to cast the selection net wide.

“There is a very large number of extremely talented Zimbabweans spread out all over the world,” he said.

“Many are professionals, earning a living for their families in top European leagues. We will do everything we can to ensure the strongest side is assembled to represent Zimbabwe in July. The cost implications of getting top foreign-based players is very significant. We have a team of people working very hard to raise funds to assist these players in coming to play for the

national team. We aim to have a blend of local and foreign-based players by the time we get to July. What we cannot allow to happen is that local-based players are neglected or left behind. Local-based players must be worked with weekly and have pathways to contracts in places like Europe, as many of our players have done over the past few years…massive credit needs to be given to both Uganda and Kenya, who have created thriving local leagues where many players are professional, very active and well coached by professionals.”

The former Western Province and Pumas flyhalf—who earned a handful of Test caps for Zimbabwe—is becoming a head coach at Test level for the first time, although he was an assistant under outgoing Sables gaffer Brendan Dawson.

Benade has previously coached at his old Cape Town club, False Bay, and at Old Hararians back home in Zimbabwe. He also took charge of Rondebosch and Wynberg Boys High Schools in the Cape area.

But the youthful new Sables tactician does not believe the jump from club and schoolboy level, to international rugby, is a handicap in modern rugby.

 “There seems to be a trend recently at clubs, especially that the coaches have become a lot younger as the game has changed very dramatically over the last 15 years or so,” Benade remarked.

“Modern training and coaching methods are far removed from those (of) 20 years ago that often it’s the slightly younger generation of coaches which don’t need to unlearn, or to move with the times as we sort of emerged from those changing methods as players. The leap or gap between coaching schools or clubs might not be as big as we may think. The top school setups in South Africa are at an extremely high and professional level. Coaches at top schools are often in the top bracket of coaches in South Africa. Top clubs again are run very professionally with great minds and methods being tried and tested. Being in this environment for the last 15 years, I think has put me in a good position to be able to help. As far as the players you are coaching, compared to schools and clubs, it’s easy to improve a club player new to rugby by 50 percent. The more difficult challenge is improving a top elite player by another three or five percent.”

Benade has set up an equally youthful backroom staff that has former Sables front-rower Kevin Nqindi as scrum coach.

Fortune Chipendu, one of the most capped players in Zimbabwean rugby history, will take care of the line-out. National Sevens team head coach Ricky Chirengende is the defence, breakdown and backline coach.

TJ Chifokoyo, another ex-Sables forward, has been retained as team manager.

“These local coaches will be guided and supported by their specialist consultants who are currently in high-performance environments in South Africa,” said Benade.