‘I’m Still Incharge’, Says A Defiant Mandenge
CYPRIAN Mandenge, whose tenure as Sables coach the Zimbabwe Rugby Union announced had come to an end on Tuesday, insists that he is still in charge of the senior national team since his mandate was to qualify for the 2019 World Cup in Japan.
Mandenge, despite a terrible record of just four wins out of 17 matches since he took over from Brendan Dawson at the beginning of 2015 still believes he is still on track to take the Sables to Japan. ZRU chief executive officer Blessing Chiutare last Tuesday said Mandenge’s technical team had been disbanded after a technical review meeting.
“My mandate was to qualify for the 2019 World Cup. When the Trust came on board we were planning around that. People are not telling the story as it is, when I took up the job I knew there would be challenges because the union has no resources,’’ Mandenge said.
He made it clear that he has a lot of respect for Dawson, the man he assisted from 2011 until 2015 when he succeeded him. Interestingly, Dawson is being lined up to take over the Sables coaching position again. Mandenge had no kind words for former ZRU director of rugby Liam Middleton who is largely blamed for Zimbabwe’s failure to qualify for the 2015 World Cup when he made a decision to take a penalty goal instead of pushing for a bonus point fourth try which would have guaranteed the Sables a place in England.
“When we failed to qualify for the World Cup people like Liam Middleton walked away, he was supposed to come up with a strategy for the next qualifiers. I have great respect for Brendan Dawson but for a person like Liam to come out in the newspapers criticising me, it’s not fair, he also made a decision to cut on allowances. He is only back in Zimbabwe because he has no job. What would have happened if all of us had left? I took up the job at the risk of my reputation. I had to beg players to play for the national team,’’ said Mandenge.
He said he does not think he deserve the abuse he is getting on social media because in his own view, there was a lot of improvement shown by the Sables this year. Mandenge expressed surprise on seeing his Sables job being advertised by ZRU.
“I don’t deserve the insults I am getting on social media. With the team we have we can got so far, there was a lot of improvement. What we needed to work on was conditioning, nutrition, beef up the technical team. There is need for psychologist and fatigue killed us.
Was surprised to see my job being advertised, I am still the Sables coach, I haven’t received any letter.
My mandate is to qualify for the World Cup, I still haven’t failed,’’ he said.
Asked why he does not want to walk away since he has received little support from ZRU since he became Sables coach in 2015, Mandenge said he wanted to be judged after being given resources and failed to deliver results.
“We only meet to play, other countries camp for months, I want to be judged when you have given me something and I have failed. I am not proud of my record, people should look at the prevailing circumstances. I am here for a reason, it’s us qualifying for the World Cup, little things that need to be fixed. I am not saying I am the Alpha and Omega of rugby in this country,’’ Mandenge said.
He pointed out that he would be happy if the job is given to Dawson, Grant Mitchell or Brighton Chivandire who have remained involved with the local game over the years.
“Dawson is one person I will forever respect, he is a guy who groomed me and he is passionate about the game. I will be happy for Dawson, Grant and Bright if they are given that job. I am not refusing to go, I need to have a reason, I was never told that I had been fired. I was not given anything, I told them that I was not accepting anything because the review was not objective but was subjective,’’ said Mandenge.
He strongly believes the team he had this year can still qualify for the World Cup. For that to happen, Mandenge is convinced ZRU have to appoint a fulltime director of rugby who will come up a clear blueprint.
“I believe this team can take us to the World Cup, with whoever in charge. Players should be contracted, a programme put in place. If people are serious, we need a fulltime director, all these things are put in place by the director,’’ Mandenge said.
The disbanding of the Sables technical team was done after a meeting Mandenge had with Chiutare, acting director of rugby Nsikelelo Sibanda and Tapiwa Mangezi who was the ZRU vice president in charge of national teams prior to the board being suspended by the Sports and Recreation Commission.