ZIMBABWE rugby team coach Peter de Villiers insists he still has what it takes to turn around the team’s fortunes after the Sables slumped to their third straight defeat following a 58-28 defeat to Namibia at Hartsfield Rugby Ground on Saturday and edged closer towards relegation to the second-tier of African rugby.

BY DANIEL NHAKANISO

Zimbabwe coach Peter de Villiers

The only consolation for the Sables was that they became the only team in the ongoing World Cup qualification to score four tries against Namibia and secure a bonus point, which could prove vital ahead of their relegation play-off in Uganda in August 18.

Namibia was just simply by far the better side on the day and their dominant victory put them within 80 minutes of a sixth successive Rugby World Cup appearance should they overcome Kenya at home in a fortnight.

In contrast, the Sables remain stuck in the woods, with De Villiers yet to secure a win in four Tests in what has been a nightmarish World Cup qualification campaign since taking over in February.

The former Springboks coach, however, reckons just like how he enjoyed tremendous success in his second season as Springboks coach after an under-whelming start, he can still do the same with the Sables.

“We have brought in some systems, which (I think) is really very good for going forward. As I just said, when I started coaching the Springboks, I almost lost all the games in 2008 and in 2009 we won the tri-nations and beat the Lions in the other series,” he said.

De Villiers said his charges were aware of the task ahead of their final match of the season against Uganda, which they need to win at all costs to avoid relegation to the Silver Cup next season.

“The players know that there’s still one game to go, I know that the crowds are despondent, I know we are not happy because of the result on the scoreboard, but we understand that we are professionals and we have to go and do another job,” he said.

“The next game is the most important game. Today was about small victories. When we couldn’t make it anymore and the small victory was to get one bonus point from this game as we had planned it and we got it.

“We’ve got a few injuries now and we have to assess them and look at how good they are to go. If not then bring some other boys in, but there’s one job to be done. We’re not gonna allow anything to affect us and we just have to do the job because next year is still coming and we want to be there to go rectify all our mistakes this year.”

The Welwitschias, as Namibia are affectionately known, scored nine tries through winger Sethie Desiderius, tight-head prop Wian Conradie, flank Pieter-Jan Venter, substitute flank Tjuuee Uanivi, flanker Janco Venter, replacement scrum-half Damian Stevens, left winger Lesley Klim as well as captain and flanker Johan Deysel.

The Sables, to their credit, earned a bonus through tries by outstanding flank Connor Pritchard as well as lively left winger Tafadzwa Chitokwindo, right winger Shayne Makombe and substitute hooker Matthew Mandioma.

In what has become the chorus of the campaign, De Villiers was yet again left fuming over his team’s handling errors and defensive shortcomings and failure to utilise their opportunities.

“We let in some easy tries and as I said to the players this was the most difficult half time I’ve had to do. At times we were so good and at times we just let it slip. Our problem this year is we’ve never had a good start, we give away easy tries at the beginning of the game and then we have to play catch up from that point. Again that comes down to that experience,” he
said.