BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
SABLES assistant coach Tonderai Chavhanga says helping Zimbabwe qualify for their first Rugby World Cup since 1991 would be the greatest achievement of his rugby career even eclipsing his successful professional stint in South Africa and Wales.
Widely acknowledged as one of the fastest rugby players of his era, Chavhanga spent over a decade at the top level of the game, becoming the first black person
from this country to play for the Springboks in 2005.
Despite all the personal achievements during his playing career, Chavhanga, who is now part of the Sables’ backroom staff as assistant coach to Brendan Dawson,
says helping his country of birth regain its place at the global showpiece would be his biggest milestone.
“If I would be able to assist the (Zimbabwe) team in qualifying for the World Cup, it would definitely be my greatest rugby achievement and even better than playing for South Africa as there is nothing more rewarding than restoring pride in the national team and bringing hope to the nation,” Chavhanga said in an interview with the South African website Sport24.
The 35-year-old former Springbok star, who also recently served as an assistant coach during the Zimbabwe Academy’s campaign in the SuperSport Rugby Challenge
in South Africa, says he is enjoying the responsibilities, which come with being a coach.
“Being involved with the national team as an assistant coach has been absolutely amazing. I never envisioned myself coaching, but I have thoroughly enjoyed it
and being able to grow as a coach. I quickly learned that the coaching demands go beyond just the technical aspects of the game and I have embraced my big
brother role with the players,” he said.
The Sables last played in the World Cup back in 1991 in a tournament staged in five European countries.
They, however, came just a bonus point of qualifying for the 2015 World Cup under the tutelage of former national team captain Dawson, who is now in his
second stint as head coach.
After a dismal World Cup qualification campaign last year under former coach Peter de Villiers, the Sables have been on a resurgence, winning four matches on
the trot against Zambia, Kenya and Uganda (home and away) in the new-look Victoria Cup.
The tremendous results have seen the Sables rise 16 places on the World Rugby rankings, which is a massive boost as the global rankings will determine the
route for Africa’s 2023 World Cup qualification in a new-look structure introduced by the game’s global governing body.
While expressing satisfaction with the team’s results thus far, Chavhanga said the Sables had the potential to not only qualify for the 2023 World Cup in
France, but also be competitive due to the abundant talent at the country’s disposal.
“We have won four from four in the Victoria Cup and have climbed up about 16 places in the World Rugby rankings. We are concentrating on trying to rebuild
Zimbabwean rugby. The talent is there and I truly believe we can qualify for the World Cup in the future. I think we cannot only make the World Cup, but prove
competitive because there are a few foreign-based players playing at a high level,” he said.