Zhou on Gorillas’ big loss in maiden league match



MASERU – Head coach of the Gorillas, Nyasha ‘Roy’ Zhou, is undeterred by his team’s significant loss in their opening fixture of the Econet Rugby League. The Econet Rugby League newcomers suffered a 59-0 defeat against TY Academy in their first-ever official competitive 15-a-side rugby match at Makoanyane Barracks last Saturday.

Zhou, however, expresses confidence that his team will bounce back in their next fixture. “I wouldn’t label it a significant loss because, in other matches, seasoned teams also scored similarly, like LDF (Liqhomane) beating NUL Spears 44-5,” Zhou said in an interview with Public Eye on Monday.

“So you can tell that my team was on the correct level, also considering that the average age of my players is 18 years.” Despite being the rookies in the rugby top-flight league, Zhou reiterated that the Gorillas are the most youthful team in the league.

“They are young, and the only time they got to train was maybe during the holidays, and nowadays when they go to school, we just meet only on Fridays and have a training session, and on Saturdays if we do not have games,” he said. Therefore, Zhou said lack of fitness was their main problem against the Academy. 

“Fitness was the problem because in the beginning of the game we were holding Academy, but after some time the fitness aspect cut in and allowed them to start scoring some tries due to pressure.” But Zhou still commends his charges for a good game. He said despite the loss, they showed some fighting spirit.

“But I think my boys played so well. They had fighting spirit, and it was just a matter of experience that made us not get the results we might have wanted. “This was their debut competitive 15-aside game. They used to compete in seven and 10 a-side games in their district (Butha-Buthe).”

As a result, Zhou said playing against a star-studded team like the Academy was bound to be tough. “Most of TY Academy players play for the national team. You can talk about their captains, Bokang Ncheke and Tlali Nkoka, amongst others. You talk of the lock and prop (Ncheke and Nkoka). These are players from the national team playing against rookies from our club.”

Therefore, Zhou said conceding less than 60 points against Academy was not too bad. He further said: “I think they played very well, and of course the team is definitely going to improve.” But he still had concerns: “Another thing that worries me a lot is that we did not play our real game. We are usually very good, more than that.”

But Zhou knew that the absence of their captain, Tumelo Katali, also contributed to the Gorillas’ heavy debut loss. “Our playmaker got a job in Cape Town just four to five days before we came to the game, and at the time our game plans were set around him. “So it was a bit of a challenge because you had to get someone who doesn’t know all the moves because it was too late for us to try and groom a fly-half.”

Zhou said some of those playmaker positions, like fly-half, are very difficult to coach. “Some of those playmaker positions are very difficult to coach, and if you don’t have good numbers 9 and 10, sometimes things do not go well.

“You always need a brilliant fly half and scrum half for your 15-aside team to click because these are positions that control the whole team.” Zhou further said: “So we are lacking there, and we still have issues with our guys in the scrum.” The Gorillas’ coach also admitted that his players were still learning.

“Yes, we still have to know where to go, but I will tell you that these guys played well. I think they are stronger than some of the seasoned teams who used to get 77-0 and even 100-0 when they started to play rugby. But these guys (gorilla players) have shown character. They played as if it were not their first time.”

The Gorillas’ next game will be against Liqhomane at home on March 9. Zhou hopes a home advantage will work this time around. “Our next match is obviously going to be tough. I watched LDF (Liqhomane) play last Saturday, and I realised that it would not be an easy match for us.”

Zhou further said: “We are going to host them here in Butha-Buthe, and of course we might have some home advantage.” The Gorillas coach said against Liqhomane, his team would be a better side in terms of players’ attendance compared to last Saturday.

“We did not have a full bench against Academy, and as a result, I had to play some of the players out of position. “But it will be a different story in Butha-Buthe. We will have more players. So we will be able to maintain, maybe even pull up a surprise victory. 

Meanwhile, the Econet Rugby League champions, Mabote Beavers, will host rivals Maseru Warriors at Mabote Ground this Saturday. In another fixture tomorrow, NUL Spears will face TY Academy at the same venue.

Econet Rugby League fixture at a glance

Mabote Beavers Ladies vs. Maseru Warriors Ladies (12:00)

NUL Spears vs. TY Academy (13:00)

Mabote Beavers vs. Maseru Warriors (15:00)

All these games take place tomorrow at Mabote Ground. 

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