Deputy Sports Editor

THE uncertainty around the rugby calendar appears to be the only blemish in an otherwise great week for senior national team coach Brendan Dawson.

This follows Government’s decision to green light the safe return of the sport after a seven-month coronavirus-induced hiatus.

Rugby and all the other contact sports such as football, basketball, and netball were deemed high-risk disciplines that were likely to promote the spread of Covid-19.

Dawson had just returned from an attachment in New Zealand when the coronavirus pandemic struck.

Many countries around the world subsequently went into lockdown, which crippled all international sports, including the 2020 Olympic Games scheduled for Tokyo, Japan.

The Sables had been preparing to defend their Victoria Cup title as well as the Africa Cup, which will be used as qualifiers for the 2023 Rugby World Cup. “We are delighted, ecstatic even, with the return of rugby. It is great news for both the players and coaching personnel, who have been at the mercy of the virus and unable to play for the last couple of months,” Dawson said.

The return of the sport is subject to the observance of strict health protocols. Players, officials, and ancillary staff are expected to be regularly tested, while venues earmarked for use and rugby facilities will also undergo regular disinfection.

It is, however, the Sables’ calendar that is likely to be the sore point for the gaffer.

“The union (ZRU) has been trying to get some game time for the Sables, preferably before the year ends, with the chief targets being Uganda, Kenya, Zambia and South Africa,” said Dawson. Unfortunately, due to being still in the midst of their respective fight against the virus, and subsequent lockdowns, Uganda and Kenya have been ruled out. This has left us with South Africa and Zambia, from who we hope to get at least a tournament or three Tests against, respectively,” he said.

The situation has been worsened by Rugby Africa’s silence over the Africa and Victoria Cup tournaments, including South Africa Rugby Union silence on the Currie Cup.

Dawson believes this has left the Sables flying blind ahead of the 2021 season. But the gaffer is more worried by his charges’ lack of game time.

“The locally-based players have been the worst affected by the Covid-19 pandemic as they have not been active for the better part of the last eight months.

“Some leagues in countries like Italy, Germany, Poland and more recently South Africa have resumed playing, which covers some of our foreign-based players.

“Our local guys have been forced to fend for themselves, training individually, and, ideally, I would love to get at least a training camp, maybe a tournament or three Test matches before the year ends,” said Dawson.

The former Zimbabwe eighthman and captain has, however, put his faith in the resilience of his players.

He hopes to get good news and more games before January.

“The virus has had a huge impact on us, with no matches played this year. It disrupted our momentum and ruining everything we worked hard for last year. We were starting to gel as a team. We had many former and new players showing interest in wearing the Sables jersey,” Dawson said.

The former Zimbabwe eighthman and captain has, however, put his faith in the resilience of his players.

He hopes to get good news and more games before January.