It's not looking good for PDV

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By Robson Sharuko

Harare- Three games into his reign as coach of the Zimbabwe Sables rugby national team, Peter de Villiers, who was brought in amid a flurry of grand expectations of reviving the side and taking the country to its first World Cup appearance in more than a quarter-of-a-century, is still searching for his first win.

Two losses and a disappointing home draw have provided a reality check for De Villiers, the South African coach, in a country whose national football team has had its fair share of poor campaigns on the continent under the guidance of foreign coaches.

Despite investing heavily in the expertise of foreign coaches over the last 38 years, the Zimbabwe national football team’s brightest moments have come when it has been under the tutelage of the local coaches with three of them – Sunday Chidzambwa, Charles Mhlauri and Callisto Pasuwa – taking the team to the AFCON finals.

None of the foreign coaches, who have had a flirtation with the Zimbabwe Warriors, as the national football team is affectionately known, managed to guide them to the AFCON finals and this has led to questions about such investments among the fans.

Former Springboks coach De Villiers was recruited recently to take charge of the Zimbabwe national rugby side, the Sables, who have been struggling in the wilderness, since their last appearance at the 1991 Rugby World Cup, amid heightened optimism his arrival will spark the team into life.

However, three matches into the Africa Gold Cup, which also serve as the qualifiers for the 2019 Rugby World Cup, things haven’t gone according to plan with the Sables losing two matches and drawing one at home against Morocco.

Only one team from the group, which is being dominated by Namibia, who have thrust themselves as the second most powerful team on the continent after the Springboks of South Africa – who get automatic qualification into the World Cup – will make it to the showcase in Japan.

They were expected to beat Tunisia last Saturday but, for the second straight weekend, they fell on the road after suffering a 14-18 loss at the hands of their hosts.

The countdown to that game was dominated by off-the-field drama after the Sables rejected a lodge which they had been given by their hosts leading to the players to check out and then sleep on the streets with their pictures going viral on social media.

Despite the poor start to his time as the Sables coach, De Villiers, has not let the results drown his optimism and he has been using his social media handle on Twitter to connect with the local fans and telling them that, despite the dark clouds hanging over their campaign, the future could be bright.

De Villiers has been rolling out a charm offensive to the fans, including claiming that the Sable was a bigger animal than the Springbok, and there was a reason for them to be confident about the future.

He has also been using some Shona words to show he is now part of the family.

“The Sable is bigger than a Springbok,” he tweeted. “Have a great day Sables fans, Tatenda (thank you). It’s been a hectic two weeks for us, we gave it our all in Kenya and the boys showed great improvement and gave Kenya a good run.

“We had a little bit of a hiccup to the start of our Tunisia leg of the tour, but the boys were ready for the game. They now understand they are international players and need to let their game speak, overall I`m happy with the performance from the boys.

“We just have to work on how to kill off a team, we lost both games while we had the lead so we are going to work on that. WE ARE STILL IN IT.” De Villiers had also used Twitter to rally his players ahead of their battle against the Tunisians.

“Hello Zimbabwe and Sable fans across the world. As you know l am in Tunisia with the Zimbabwe team for a World Cup qualifying game,” he said.

“The boys are in very good spirits and are as ready as can be for the game. Thank you for your support #itsSablesTime.”

And, despite the team’s challenges, it appears De Villiers has the full support of the fans.

“You did your best coach with what was available,” Taps Muzo replied on Twitter. “Going forward I think we can build for 2023 and I still believe you are the man for the job, our Rugby structures are the ones which need to improve so that we can deliver. “Negative stuff, just ignore, anger (has) never built anything.

And another fan, Craig Jody Manuel, also rallied behind the South African.

“No matter the field you may be in, one of the signs that you’re progressing and climbing the ladder is that you’re going to get criticised,” he said.

“My advice? Ignore the critics, haters and those who wish they had your self-discipline & goals. Stay focused & remember- It’s your journey!”

Another fan, Michael Manwere, was also complimentary of De Villiers despite the Sables struggles in the World Cup qualifiers.

“We can build going forward, 2023 we will be very competitive,” he said. “You did your best with that empty player base. We understand you PDV and we are behind you.

“We (are) lacking experience to kill off games. We need three or four big names.”

Zimbabwean politician, Advocate Fortune Chasi, a strong sports fan, also joined the debate on Twitter and said he was behind the coach.

“We are with you Peter! Do your thing and good luck!” he said.

Webster Chiyangwa met up with the Sables in Kenya land said it was an honour for him while also rallying on the team to find a winning touch.

“We love you all, it was great to meet you and your team during the Kenya leg. Go exhibit buffalo soldier fighting spirit in defence of our national colours,” he said.]

The Kenyans were also in action last weekend and beat neighbours Uganda 38-22 for their third straight in the Gold Cup.

The Kenyans, who are now only three points behind leaders Namibia, touched down five times and scored a penalty against Uganda’s four tries and one conversion.

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