Lovejoy Mutongwiza (LM) caught up with Zimbabwe Rugby, the Sables, head coach Cyprian “Supa” Mandenge (CM) on the sidelines of the just ended Dairiboard Schools Rugby Festival where he shared his philosophy on grooming a good rugby player, his thoughts on the development of rugby in the country and how discipline plays a pivotal role in nurturing a future global rugby star.
Mandenge, who also coaches Eaglesvale School, had just lost to visiting Livingstone College from Botswana.
Below are snippets of the interview.
LM: Hello Coach. Please introduce yourself
CM: Hi Lovejoy, well my name is Cyprian Mandenge and most people know me as Coach Supa. I’m the head coach at Zimbabwe Rugby, the Sables
LM: Tough luck on the game today. Where did it go wrong for you and your team?
CM: The boys did well but they could have done better; it was our first game of the season so it is always difficult to play especially if it’s your first time playing together.
We haven’t played as a team together because we didn’t go on tour and we lacked discipline.
LM: What are the three things that you value the most as a coach?
CM: I value discipline, fitness and obviously basics. If you don’t have discipline in my team you won’t play and the players know that both at school rugby and national rugby level.
At school level, discipline is not a problem because I make a follow up on my players both socially and academically.
LM: How do you ensure that rugby does not interfere with the academic side of your players
CM: The teachers will tell me how my players are performing in school and I will use that for selection.
The kids love rugby, if you take away that part of them. They will obviously work harder to make sure they are back in the team.
They also know that if they want to get a scholarship at any university, if your grades are going down, it means your career is also going down.
I also give them examples of top sportsman who have destroyed their careers due to lack of academic qualifications and discipline.
In most cases I work with their parents who also keep tabs on their children so that they share their notes with me on the development of their child
LM: What is your philosophy on discipline?
CM: As I earlier said, discipline is very vital in rugby. The biggest aspect on discipline is respecting one another. I also look at the players and hear what they think because I’m not going to be barking orders all the time.
LM: How do you deal with repeated offenders?
CM: I draw a line and tell the players they can go this far. If one keeps on doing the same offense then it becomes a serious issue but I’m cautious not to throw away these young stars . they are still young and learning. The learning process is long so you don’t want to destroy the kids by being too tough on them.
If you become too hard on them, you risk destroying the kids. They are still young and discovering themselves.
LM: How do you plan for your game?
CM: Planning is very important, so I don’t just plan for the immediate game, I plan for the season and then take it game by game.
When I’m planning I look at the past mistakes we made so that we correct them as we prepare for the next assignment.
I also plan according to the team that I will be playing next. I do SWOT analysis of the next opponent so that I come up with my tactics.
LM: And after the game?
CM: Lose or win, I sit with the players and we review the game. We also do a warm down with them, checking if any of them has any knocks and injuries.
We also talk about the positives from the match and a few sticking issues but I’m too cautious to go hard on them after a loss because they are youngsters and their mind-set will not be in place.
If they have won, I let them enjoy the victory. You don’t want to overload them.
LM: How do you set goals for any of your team?
CM: When setting goals, you are doing it for the team; you don’t do it for yourself. So I talk to the players and we come up with what we want to achieve. The team are the ones who are going to be playing, so I involve them.
Once they feel that they are part of the goal setting team, they will want to work hard to achieve the set goals. I’m not going to be telling them that this is what I want, but it’s all about inclusivity. Of course I will have some input it’s a matter of working together as a team which includes a group of coaches’ right from under 14 so that we play the same type of rugby…
LM: Compare the level of rugby during your days and nowadays. Can you say rugby has gotten any better or it is depleting?
CM: I would say the level of rugby had downgraded mainly because I guess it is because we had quite a number of coaches at any given to me.
They would go through a lot of coaching clinics which enhanced their knowledge. its different with nowadays where we have fewer coaches who are also not being exposed to a number of such high level coaching clinics.
Most of the coaches today are merely former rugby players who are trying to make a living after their careers are over.
If you look at schools like Lord Malvern used to play goo rugby but the standard of rugby keeps going down. Even if you look at club rugby, the guys who are playing first team rugby would never make the bench during my playing days but these are the guys who are playing our first team rugby in our league at the moment.
Another contributing factor is that a lot of good coaches and players are leaving the country in search of greener pastures outside.
At the end of the day, you have a few sides that have very good players and very good coaches.
Lack of time is also hampering the development of rugby because as a coach during the week, you are busy preparing for the current fixture while looking ahead for the next fixture. So time is a limiting factor.
LM: Thanks coach for the time, all the best in the future
CM: Thanks for having me Lovejoy