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Spare Lampard the axe


Independent Sportview By Enoch Muchinjo

A LOT has been said of the state of Zimbabwe rugby following the national team’s elimination from the Africa Cup tournament by Zambia.



=justify>One of the topical issues that have come out of the Zambia game postmortem is the future of national coach Chris Lampard.


Some quarters have suggested that the coach be replaced, while in some media reports Lampard himself has hinted at quitting, although he has not been quoted directly saying that.


Lampard may feel that after two years of failing at crucial stages of World Cup and Africa Cup qualifiers, the time has come for him to give others a chance to take the team forward.


But if his thoughts of resigning are only being enforced by public and personal pressure, then I am of the opinion that, for continuity’s sake, Lampard must be allowed to carry on with the team with the target of qualifying for the 2011 World Cup finals.


His technical shortcomings might have been exposed in the Zambia game, but the buck does not start and stop with Lampard or the players. Zimbabwe ’s failure lies almost entirely with the lack of sufficient administrative and corporate support for the team, the sort that their football and cricket counterparts receive.


The only incentive rugby gets worth talking about is the pride and honour derived from putting on the green blazer and the hooped Sables jersey.


Lampard, to his credit, has managed to bring together a talented group of young players who have been dazzlingly proud to represent their country. They belted out loud the national anthem during the pre-match rituals, with heads raised in sheer devotion — something you will not see the Warriors do voluntarily.


Lampard and the dedicated team manager, Rory McWade, deserve full marks for infusing respect in the Sables shirt.


For the past five years, the Zimbabwe Rugby Union has continually cringed under pressure to change coaches for the Sables. Each coach has brought his own squad of players, new tactics and a whole new manner of doing things. This unconstrained disregard for continuity has been extremely harmful to Zimbabwe rugby.


Instead of sharpening axes for Lampard, I believe such efforts should be diverted to making the environment better for the technical team and the players to concentrate on their core duty of coaching and playing.


Yes, the current Sables team failed where previous Zimbabwe sides would not have shed much sweat. But this is a young side bursting with raw talent. With more time together, and experience as well, the team can only get better.


If taken good care of, the current crop of players will revive Sables rugby. Players such as Cleopas Makotose, Tangai Nemadire, Paul Staak and Alfred Sairayi, among others, are as good as any young players on the African continent.


And as a coach and companion, Lampard is good with the players. There is an unmistakable understanding between the players and coach — empathy that comes from knowledge of each other’s background.


I have my personal reservations about Lampard emanating from my not-so-pleasant contact with him, and more for his resentment of press criticism, but he after all comes across as an open-minded individual with excellent work ethics and noticeable belief and love for Zimbabwe rugby.


He has given his all and has sacrificed a lot of his time from his job at Falcon College to be with the team when it is known that financial benefits from the game are next to nil.


Lampard might have erred in allowing a little too many people to have input in technical issues. But the impact of that on the team before, during and after the Zambia game contributed less to the outcome of the game. It did not at all cause what was blown up as indiscipline and chaos in the team in some media reports.


As for tactics and game plan, Lampard must now be better experienced after two seasons in charge. And he also has capable and ready helpers he can always turn to for assistance and advice.


Former captain and Sables most capped player Brendan Dawson, assistant coach Sykes Sibanda and manager McWade, himself a qualified coach, are some of the many proven tacticians who worked with Lampard this year and whose services they should continue offering.


We also boast a rich talent coming up the ranks — an observation fully backed by Zimbabwe’s triumph at the recent Under-19 World Cup qualifiers in Morocco.


Schools rugby should also give us a reason to believe in the future of Zimbabwe rugby, but only if we get things right — and that includes includes continuity, not that promoting competitive domestic structures is not a priority. sportsdesk@zimind.co.zw

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