Paradigm shift key for Women’s 7s Rugby

The former Sables coach said a team is as good as their last tournament and wants to see a lot of matches being given to the girls for them to keep improving.

ZIMBABWE Women's Sevens Rugby head coach Cyprian Mandenge wants a paradigm shift in the way ladies’ rugby is being taken, should there be any hopes of playing at the highest level.

A half-baked Lady Cheetahs lost all their three-pool stage matches on identical 26-5 scorelines against South Africa and hosts Tunisia before going down 22-0 to Uganda in Monastir.

These results put paid to their hopes of qualifying for the Paris 2024 Olympics in France. Springbok Women edged the Lioness of Kenya 21-7 to qualify for the Olympics while the latter proceeded to the repechage.

“The girls gave it their all really, but again it goes back to the issue of preparations. For a tournament like the Olympic Qualifiers or World Cup, we know it's a four-year cycle and for the 2028 Olympics preparations should start now,” Mandenge told Standard Sport.

“Look, I have been in the job for about four months now and it's too short a time to prepare. As much as we gave it our best shot, if you look at the other countries like South Africa for example, they are on the HSBC Series.

“Kenya, they have got a programme that they're running, same applies to Uganda. Even Zambia they have been running the programme for a while now. You also have got Tunisia, most of the girls are based in France and they have been training there.”

The former Sables coach said a team is as good as their last tournament and wants to see a lot of matches being given to the girls for them to keep improving.

“In terms of talent, our girls have got talent, but we just need to work a bit because you could see that they were losing their structure in defense here and there because it's not something that they do a lot. "We need to start playing a lot of sevens locally, we need to invest in the game of sevens, we need to invest in the ladies, we need to start the preparations now,” he said.

“Again, our pool is a bit small; we need to build a bigger pool. The low-hanging fruit for me now is to go to the uniformed forces and also go around the country, try and identify athletes. We go to other sport codes and identify athletes from there. It's easy to even get a soccer player or a basketball player to come in and play rugby, but the key thing is preparations.

“We need to have a proper programme to say in the next two years this is where we want to be, next three years, next four years this is where we want to be and play as many games as possible.”

The Lady Cheetahs’ camp, despite commencing a little too late, kicked off on a low key with girls struggling to come for practice owing to bus fare challenges. Later, the Ministry of Sport intervened via their strategic partners - the Sports and Recreation Commission and Zimbabwe Olympic Committee.

Mandenge called on stakeholders to support the girls all the way so that they keep getting better.

“There are no shortcuts in sport just like in life there are no shortcuts. We just must keep working. I also believe that for anything to happen you also need resources because these girls have got to go to the gym, they must get some supplements. They need the bus fare to go there so it's things like that where you need some partners coming in,” he said.

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