HARARE – Former South Africa winger Tonderai Chavhanga feels new Zimbabwe coach Piet Benade can “unleash the full potential” of the neighouring country, backing his former schoolboy rugby teammate to deliver success.

Record-breaking Chavhanga, who scored a record six tries on debut for the Springboks in 2005, is originally from Zimbabwe.

Back in the day around the turn of the millennium, terrific winger Chavhanga played alongside the outstanding fly-half Benade in the first team of Harare’s Prince Edward Boys High, one of the finest school teams ever assembled in the history of Zimbabwean rugby.

Internationally, the two would however go separate ways, with Chavhanga getting four Test caps for the Springboks in a short Test career. Benade, who played first-class rugby for Western Province and Pumas in South Africa, later returned to Zimbabwe and earned a couple of caps for the Sables towards the end of his playing career.

Last week, 42-year-old Benade was appointed interim head coach of their native Zimbabwe, as the success-starved country begin yet another quest to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1991.

“With Benade’s appointment, Zimbabwean rugby has gained a young and dynamic coach capable of unleashing the full potential of our players,” Chavhanga told SportsCast on Sunday.

“His coaching style—meticulous with a focus on executing the basics while allowing players’ individual flair to shine—is reminiscent of his playing days.

“Piet’s character, akin to Dawsie’s (outgoing Zimbabwe coach Brendan Dawson), involves a genuine care for his players and the ability to command respect, both critical qualities not to be overlooked.”

Benade launched his coaching career in the Cape area with the False Bay club, who he also represented as a player, in addition to roles at Rondebosch Boys High and Wynberg Boys High. Back in Zimbabwe, Benade has coached at his old school, Prince Edward, and local club giants Old Hararians. He was also part of Dawson’s coaching staff with the Sables for two years, before taking over the reins last week.

Benade coached at club and schoolboy level before his appointment as Zimbabwe national team coach.

His first task will be to keep the Sables in the top four of Africa’s eight-team tier-one league this year, if the Zimbabweans are to stay in contention for a place at the 2027 World Cup in Australia.

Chavhanga believes his good old mate will be up to the task. He also wouldn’t just welcome Benade’s appointment without paying tribute to another loyal son of Zimbabwean rugby, outgoing Sables coach Dawson.

The ex-Bok tearaway himself briefly worked as an assistant coach under the former Zimbabwe captain Dawson.

“To begin, I must express my deep respect for Brendan Dawson’s significant contributions to the Sables as the outgoing coach,” remarked Chavhanga.

“His dedication to serving his country with pride is undeniable, and though the team did not qualify for the (2023) World Cup, Dawsie’s exceptional preparation of the team should be recognised and applauded as well.”

But Chavhanga isn’t naïve. He has been in the Zimbabwe set-up before and knows the off-field distractions associated with the position Benade now occupies.

“The real challenge for Piet will be navigating the intricate politics of rugby in Zimbabwe and addressing some of the unique responsibilities that come with being the national rugby coach of Zimbabwe, like fund-raising,” Chavhanga commented.

“It is crucial for the Zim Rugby Union, clubs, provinces, and, importantly, corporate sponsors to rally behind Piet Benade and the Sables. The resurgence of Zimbabwean rugby to its former glory hinges on our collective support for Piet and the team.”


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