Zimbabwe Rugby Union president Aaron Jani believes his administration is on course to achieve its vision of steering the domestic game into a new era of professionalism following the unveiling of the Sables’ headline sponsors ahead of the new season.
Jani’s sentiments come after Nedbank Zimbabwe announced a US$200 000 sponsorship package for the Sables ahead of the 2023 Rugby World Cup qualifiers in France in July.
The financial support from Nedbank, which is almost double their initial package of US$120 000 for last year, will cater for the Sables’ preparations in the run-up to the qualifiers, which includes participation in the Currie Cup First Division in South Africa for the first time since 1978.
The coming on board of Nedbank as the Sables headline sponsors, in addition to bankrolling the domestic Rugby Challenge Cup, is another major vote of confidence for Zimbabwean rugby as it seeks to become a fully professional sport.
And Jani, whose administration has been working in collaboration with the Sables Trust, a special body constituted to secure sponsorship support for the country’s flagship team said they would continue to pull all stops to ensure the local game becomes fully professional.
Among the initiatives meant to achieve this includes the setting up of fundraising committees for the various teams which includes, age group sides, the women’s team, the national rugby sevens side, the Cheetahs and the flagship Sables team.
“They (the various national teams) will be run under the umbrella of the union and by the union using administrative committees headed by very capable men and women who are known as chairpersons to us. Their role is to ensure that together with the union, they resource their teams so that they are well funded and can meet the obligations both on and off the field,” Jani said during the Nedbank sponsorship unveiling.
“We did this for three main reasons: reason number one was to better manage and resource our national teams. Reason number two was to make the tent bigger for a greater reach by inviting as many rugby lovers who want to contribute as volunteers within the union. Last but not least to create transparency so that the non-elected stakeholders would openly see and partake in the sourcing and deployment of union resources.”
He added: “For our flagship team the Sables, the committee is known as the Sables Trust and is headed by Coleen de Jong. The mission of the Trust is to ensure that the team meets all its international obligations that both players and technical teams can focus on rugby knowing that their families are catered for. It is our vision to ensure that we reach total professionalism in the near future where salaries can be paid throughout the year.”
While attaining full professionalism remains the ultimate goal for Zim Rugby, the country can take a major step towards attaining this by qualifying for their first Rugby World Cup since 1991.
Having made their two previous appearances in 1987 and 1991, Zimbabwe need to win this year’s Rugby Africa Cup to book automatic qualification for next year’s World Cup to be played in France.
At this year’s Rugby Africa Cup to be held in France in July, Zimbabwe will face off against Côte d’Ivoire in the quarterfinals before a potential semifinal clash against Namibia, who face minnows Burkina Faso in the other last eight match.