Peter De Villiers’ wings clipped by Zimbabwe Rugby Union

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By Simba Mushati
Special to KweséESPN

The Zimbabwe Rugby Union (ZRU) board has moved to clip the powers of Sables coach Peter De Villiers after resolving to “beef up the selection committee” that would oversee the South African’s choices for future assignments.

The ZRU board met in Harare on Wednesday to reflect on the Sables’ disastrous Rugby Africa Gold Cup campaign that saw them survive relegation on the very last matchday to leave De Villiers at the receiving end of some scorching criticism.

ZRU president Marlon Jani said, however, that, contrary to media speculation, De Villiers’ job was never in danger.

“We are going to see the coach serve out his term,” Jani told KweséESPN.

“There was never a question from the union’s side about the issue of Peter de Villiers as a coach. He is going to serve out his contract, but we are going to help him.

“In terms of performance, yes, the board was concerned that we didn’t meet the targets that had been set, but they were also encouraged by the fact that in the last two games, the structure and confidence seemed to be coming back to the guys.

“As you know we have a very young side, 23-years on average, and the board is encouraged about the direction that the team is now taking. So there was never a question about anything about the coach as such.”

The ZRU has made a number of resolutions aimed at enhancing Zimbabwe’s competitiveness ahead of next year’s Africa Gold Cup, one of which will see the selection committee play a more prominent role in overseeing De Villiers.

“We understand that he [De Villiers] is a foreign coach and he is still learning in terms of which players are available, in terms of commitment, in terms of ability,” Jani said.

“So we are going to beef up the selection committee, so that we have diverse views, we can challenge the coach and assist him in terms of the choices that are going into any team that will participate in the Gold Cup.”

The issue of team selection has been a hot topic during De Villiers first year in charge, with some criticising him for not casting his nets wide enough as Zimbabwe veered from one disaster to another during the Gold Cup.

Jani insisted, however, that Zimbabwean rugby had also let the coach down in a way, and he said that matters would be rectified going forward.

“We realised that there was no support base in terms of a competitive league that would have supported him in the Gold Cup campaign,” Jani said.

“We didn’t have certain conditioning systems which should also have supported him for the Gold Cup campaign, so there were resolutions in order to support the coach.”

Jani said the ZRU had resolved to put in place a six-team league for next year while also moving swiftly on the introduction of an under-23 academy that would serve as an “incubator that will feed players into the Sables”.

Plans are also afoot to enter the team for next year’s SuperSport Challenge, which will give the team valuable playing time ahead of the Africa Gold Cup.