HARARE – Zimbabwe Under-20 rugby coach Shaun De Souza has described his coaching approach as “horses for courses” in reaction to criticism of his team despite the Junior Sables’ 46-21 over Tunisia on day one Youth Africa Cup at Harare Sports Club on Saturday.

The young Zimbabwean side exhibited its usual entertaining brand of rugby under De Souza’s stewardship, although some fans weren’t left impressed by the team’s lack of execution at line-out and scrum time.

But De Souza – who has guided Zimbabwe to two consecutive African titles in the last two years – says criticism of his team’s set-piece woes against the Tunisians isn’t justified because it does not define his Junior Sables group on the whole.

“People that talk don’t know how I coach, I’ve been a successful tournament-winning coach because of my strategies,” De Souza told SportsCast on Saturday after the game.

“These teams, I’ve all watched them. They’ve come into this tournament and have seen new faces in our team. So obviously how we played was the strategy. Next game you’re definitely going to see a different (Zimbabwe) team. So ja, they can criticise all they want: the set-pieces, the concerns of the kick-starts, it’s something that we’ve just finished talking about. We are doing that review with my technical team, we really got a solution to that. The combinations that you saw there, that is what it is. Its tournament rugby, the next game you’ll see different combinations. It’s up to me to decide what combination to go with on the day so ja, horses for courses. People are going to say what they want. But it’s part of the game.”

Edward Sigauke scores one of Zimbabwe’s tries. Tunisia played in shirts of local club Old Hararians after part of their luggage was lost on the way.

Clearly irked by the feedback from the supporters, an exasperated De Souza challenged his critics to come forward and prove themselves in his job.

“Social media is social media, if they can coach they must come and coach, and let’s see how better they’ll do,” De Souza said.

“So ja, I let them rant. It’s their opinion, everyone is entitled to one. Let them say what they need to say.

“The problem with Zimbabwe is if we lost, they’ll have a lot to say. We won with a young team that is playing at this stage for the first time. We only had five boys from last year, and this team is already being criticised for a win. We just take the win, and celebrate the good. There were some fantastic tries that were scored by the same team, the same numbers that they are talking about that was on the field. They contributed to that. So why all of a sudden we must criticise the bad moments? Why are they not celebrating the good moments?”

Hosts Zimbabwe, who are hunting for a third Barthes Trophy in a row, face Namibia in their next match on Wednesday.

De Souza added that he is already looking ahead to the World Rugby Under-20 Trophy in Scotland in July, so is using the on-going African championship to prepare for that. The winners of the Harare tournament will represent Africa in Edinburgh.


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