BRENDAN Dawson has for the better part of his life fought some bruising battles on the pitch and from the touchline for the cause of Zimbabwe rugby.
The Sables legend and coach has in those years spanning over three decades, exhibited a fiery figure that would destroy anything in its wake to ensure Zimbabwe’s rugby wins.
On Tuesday night, at a pavilion at Borrowdale racecourse, the tough-talking former Zimbabwe and Old Miltonians forward also showed he is human after all as his emotions got the better of him on yet another mission to ensure success for the national game.
A tearful Dawson made a passionate appeal to the corporate world and to Zimbabweans at large to believe in his dream that his current crop of Sables can qualify for the 2023 World Cup in France.
After a 2020 season that was wiped off by the Covid-19 pandemic, the Sables will be back in business next year as they seek to conquer the continent and secure their place in France.
It is now 29 years since Zimbabwe’s last dance at the World Cup and Dawson was part of that generation of Sables at the global rugby showpiece.
But it was Dawson’s passionate plea to the corporate world for them to help change the players’ lives by professionalising the Sables, which touched many on that night at Borrowdale racecourse, itself famed for being the home of horse racing in the country.
“We have a massive journey and I promise you that we have the best team that I can get to take us to the qualifier on July 22.
“We have 18 months to prepare and I can assure you that we will go to the World Cup.
“These boys have what it takes to compete and we can qualify for the World Cup. We will go to the World Cup not just to make up numbers, but to compete.
“We’ve got an immense amount of talent in our country and outside who are dying to wear the national jersey,’’ Dawson said.
It is the manner in which the Sables players are remunerated which Dawson wants to be reviewed and which he believes makes the difference between Zimbabwe and such professional teams like South Africa’s Springboks.
And it is against this background that his passionate plea was largely directed at the corporate executives with Dawson lauding his charges for “continuing to put their bodies on the line even when they come back home with just US$50’’.
Dawson asked for the desire and commitment of everyone to help make a difference in the Sables’ preparations ahead of the start of the qualifiers.
“We just have to believe in ourselves as Zimbabweans. Twice we have come so close to qualifying for the World Cup, losing to Namibia by three and four points,’’ he said.
The Sables gaffer acknowledged the support his side was getting from the ZRU leadership.
And ZRU vice president Losson Mtongwiza underlined his executive’s desire to bring the World Cup glory back to the country.
“We have reached an opportune time, once again to create history. In 1949, The All Blacks arrived in Bulawayo as part of their tour of Southern Africa. On a sunny July 27th in front of 10 000 spectators, our grandfathers made history by defeating the visitors 10-8.
“Today more than 70 years later we are still very, very proud of that afternoon’s work. In 1987 and 1991 our modern-day Zimbabwe Rugby Sables team full of individuals who are still contributing heavily to the game today, took their place among 16 of the best teams in the world in New Zealand and in Scotland and England.
“This in itself was a major achievement and they also did not disappoint. Their exploits resulted in the late Richard Tsimba being inducted in the Rugby World Hall of Fame.
“In 2012, the same team coached by the current coach Mr Brendan Dawson managed to win the Africa Cup, coming 1st in Africa outside of South Africa. In 2019, after having played in the SuperSport Challenge against professional sides, we managed to win the Victoria Cup, a tournament which is contested by Rugby Africa powerhouses Kenya, Uganda, Zambia and ourselves, obviously. For many years Zimbabwe has produced unbelievable talent with names coming to mind including the likes of Ray Mordt, Ian Robertson, Adrian Garvey, Kennedy Tsimba, Brian Mujati, Tendai Mutawarira, David Pocock, Tonderai Chivhanga, Takudzwa Ngwenya, Scot Grey and many more who have gone on to represent other nations like Italy, England, Australia, Scotland — all perennial top 10 candidates. This conveyor belt of talent has not stopped.
“We have many, many more players who are playing in top professional leagues worldwide. Some if not most of them are ready to turn out for the Sables once again and create more history. They want a sense of belonging and we want them to help put our country back on the World Map.
“Under president Aaron Jani, rugby is peaceful, calm and commands a lot of integrity. The ZRU board is firmly behind the executive and must be applauded for that. Corporate governance is observed. The union’s accounts are audited annually. Rugby is run by former players who are businessmen and understand that money doesn’t follow the noise,’’ Mtongwiza said.