BRENDAN Dawson, a mainstay of rugby in Zimbabwe for nearly three decades, says what he has seen during the country’s participation in the SuperSport Rugby Challenge gives him confidence that the future of the game is bright.

Dawson is coach of the local team playing in South Africa’s tier two competition under the name Zimbabwe Academy.

The team, which has been based here in Cape Town since April, is yet to register a win in its debut season despite putting on some encouraging performances in some of their games against South African provincial sides.

Before their final game against Eastern Province Elephants at Villagers Rugby Club on Saturday, the Zimbabwe Academy suffered defeats to Border Bulldogs, Western Province, Sharks,
Free State Cheetahs XV, Boland and SWD Eagles.

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Results, though, are not something Dawson read too much into.

“I really do believe that the team has done exceptionally well, I believe that they have followed what I wanted and I’ve got out what I wanted to get out of this whole tour,” said Dawson.

“The main focus of this whole tour was about growth and development. Results were not the most important thing to me in the sense of the final score lines, all I wanted to see is players growing with every single game. I really and truly believe that they have grown.”

The former Zimbabwe captain, who is now tipped for another tenure as the national team’s coach following the sacking of former Springbok mentor Peter de Villiers, doesn’t lack the ambitions to cause an upset or two in the SuperSport Challenge.

“Yes we’ve had a few disappointments; the last two games didn’t go according to plan,” conceded Dawson.

“I believe that the youngsters that have come through the system have learnt a tremendous amount from our participation in this competition.”

Dawson, who has ex-Springbok winger Tonderai Chavhanga as his assistant coach, said due to the support from various sponsors who made the tour possible, they have tried to embrace a professional approach in preparing for matches.

The ex-Sables loose forward reckons this will lay a solid foundation for the team as the Zimbabwe Rugby Union look to build a squad for the 2023 Rugby World Cup.

“We’ve tried to incorporate a professional approach in the way we do things from our gym and training sessions and the guys got better and performed. They are in the most professional set-up that they can ever better. We go to the gym and train every morning; we’ve also had supplements for the players. This has all been made possible through support
from the sponsors, which has been phenomenal and without them we would never be here. They’ve really taken local rugby to the next level, so at the end of the day if we can do this and continue to grow by exposing as many youngsters as we look to rebuild for the 2023 Rugby World Cup, we can do it,” he said.