Shone wants to steer Zimbabwe rugby to calm waters

Zimbabwe's Sevens team celebrate winning the Victoria Falls Sevens tournament in 2017. Supplied

The Zimbabwe Rugby Union is hoping that new leadership can reinvigorate the game in the country, according to newly-elected vice-president Martin Shone.

The ZRU have been in a period of turmoil and faced a World Rugby ban over a failure to properly elect a president and leadership group.

But last week's elective conference that saw Harare businessman Aaron Jani voted in as president, along with deputies Losson Mtongwiza and Shone, has eased the worries of the global governing body.

"The ship is in turbulent waters and we need to turn it around, and we have a challenge to work hard," Bulawayo-based Shone told The Herald.

"I am happy with the team that has been elected because we have passionate and experienced people and the work starts now with special emphasis on development, the Sables and Rugby Sevens World Cup squad."

Shone also offered an olive branch to those who had been defeated in the elections for top positions.

"To the guys that lost the elections it would be good for them to be involved in the development of the game. We need their experience and we will need to spread the game across the country."

Mtongwiza is more experienced in rugby administration in the country and says it is possible for the national side to qualify for the Rugby World Cup in Japan.

Zimbabwe are currently ranked 45 by World Rugby, with Morocco (43), Uganda (35), Kenya (30) and Namibia (23) all ahead of them among the teams who will also be looking to seal their spot in Japan in 2019.

"I am truly excited and happy to come back and serve the game," Mtongwiza said. "It is not going to be easy, but I am not new to his game. I was involved with the Sables and was instrumental in our moving from number 55 to 26 in the World when we won the Africa Cup and we need to get back to those days.

"Next year we have to qualify for the World Cup and we need to win the Africa Gold Cup and we have the potential to do that and we think it is a matter if time."

Rugby Africa vice-president David Gilbert said they were pleased, and relieved, that the new leadership group has been properly elected and the ZRU has avoided sanctions.

"We from Rugby Africa and from World Rugby have looked at the process in Zimbabwe with great concern because we consider Zimbabwe as a powerhouse of African rugby," Gilbert said generously.

"We are happy with the transparent process and there was a very strong probability that if elections had not come in, a suspension was pending.

"There are a number of African countries that have already been suspended and with the Gold Cup next year, Zimbabwe could have missed it through suspension.

"There is still a long way to go in rectifying a number of administration issues, constitutional issues and I know that World Rugby through Steph [Nel] will be assisting in that regard."