Tinashe Kusema

IT has been less than a week since Rugby Africa released the fixtures for this year’s Africa Cup and interim coach, Piet Benade, is already starting to lose sleep over his new gig.

The Sables kick off the annual tournament with an away quarter-final clash to Uganda on July 18.

Rather than just face the prospect of being relegated from the eight-team tournament — which also includes Kenya, Senegal, Algeria, Burkina Faso, Namibia and Cote d’Ivoire — the Sables will also have to ensure a top-four finish if they entertain any hopes of qualifying for the 2027 Rugby World Cup.

A win over Uganda ensures that and a loss effectively rules them out of the running for next year’s qualification rounds.

“The fixtures were released a couple of days ago, and already they are keeping me up at night,” said Benade.

“Uganda are a tricky fixture and Zimbabwe doesn’t particularly travel well.

“Our most recent trip to Kenya last year did not go as well as we had planned and it was an eye-opening experience.

“However, if we put our house in order, connect all the necessary dots like finances and game time for our players, then I believe we will give them (Uganda) the fight of their lives,” he said.

Benade was recently unveiled as the new interim head coach of the Zimbabwe Sables.

He joins the likes of Ian Buchanan (1990-92), Colin Osborne (92-96), Godwin Murambiwa (2001-02), Brighton Chivandire (2004), Cyprian Mandenge (2011 and 2015-17), Peter de Villiers (2018-19) and most recently Brendon Dawson (2019-2023).

“I get emotionally invested very easily and it all began the first time the Sables were in Stellenbosch (for the Curry Cup First Division),” said the new Sables gaffer.

“I stayed not far from where the team was training and decided to pop by for a visit.

“I saw Dawson alone with the team as Danny Hondo had to return to school and the defence coach Liam Middleton wasn’t there yet and Dawsy was running the show alone.

“That is actually how I got involved and decided to stay on for another term (2022) as it was a World Cup qualification year.

“Being with the boys during the qualification process and sharing their disappointment when we failed to make it to Paris made it easier to accept the offer to coach when it came,” he said.

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