ROMANIA-BASED rugby star, Ngoni Chibuwe, who traces the infancy of his blossoming career to Zimbabwe’s eastern border City of Mutare, believes that the recent ill-fated World Cup qualifying campaign was an eye-opener whose lessons must be used to launch future successful bids.
The Zimbabwe Rugby national team, the Sables bowed out of the 2023 Rugby World Cup after succumbing 34-19 to Namibia last week on Wednesday in the Africa Rugby Cup, which doubles as the World Cup qualifier played at the Stade Maurice David in the City of Aix-en-Provence in France.
Namibia led the first half by 14-5 as the Sables were panicking to the dry spell hindering them to qualify for their first World Cup since 1991.
The Welwitschias, as Namibia are affectionately known, will now make their seventh Rugby World Cup appearance in France next year after beating Kenya in the Rugby Africa Cup 2022 final last Sunday.
The highly rated Namibians secured their place by beating Kenya 36-0 in the final of the Rugby Africa Cup 2022.
The Simbas, Kenya reached the final with a gutsy 36-33 victory over Algeria.
Zimbabwe then settled for fourth position after losing the third place play-offs against Algeria 12 -20.
However, Chibuwe, who featured in every match of the ambitious bid to qualify for the global rugby showcase together with homeboys, Martin Mangongo and Godfrey Mangenje, reckons that the loss to Namibia was difficult to bear.
“First, I should say glory be to God for every opportunity. We had the opportunity. However, at this level, it is years of preparations and standards driven across the board that is needed to qualify to the World Cup.
“It has been really tough trying to swallow the loss, but hey that is the downside of sport. It is heartbreaking. Now the focus is on the future. We need to rise up as a country.
“The question is how do we do it right the next time? In order to mend the net, Zimbabwe rugby needs continuity competitions and more games exposure. We need a highly competitive local league. That should also see the establishment of age group community based competitions from the Under-19s.
“I believe in thorough preparations and the Sables did that. However, continuity is key. More test matches for the Sables are needed. We tasted the sweet victory against the Netherlands in front of a Zimbabwe Diaspora crowd,” said Chibuwe.
The former Mutare Sports Club and Hillcrest College player who was brought up in sprawling suburbs of Sakubva and Dangamvura, cherished the progress that the Sables made in global rankings through the Africa Rugby Cup.
Although Zimbabwe had initially moved up to 27 on the global rankings, losing to Algeria in the third place play off, who were ranked 90th cost the country dearly as it dropped to position 32.
“Zimbabwe has what it takes to rekindle lost pride. I have witnessed efforts to try and mend the net from management to supporters. Let us continue mending our Sables for the greater cause.
“We should also be grateful of those who came on board to help the Sables achieve their goals. We want to applaud our sponsors, Jason Maritz and his team, the technical staff and teammates who put their bodies on the line for our nation. It is easy to be negative when dreams are delayed. Let us get up and start playing more rugby,” said Chibuwe.