By Jon Newcombe
For Zimbabwe’s highly-rated Justin Coles, all the world is currently a stage.
The lightening fast full back cum wing recently helped entertain a record crowd of 103,027 spectators at the Marriott London Sevens, following on from earlier appearances in Dubai, South Africa, Hong Kong and Scotland on the HSBC Sevens World Series circuit.
Now he is busy preparing for his swansong at the IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy, to be held in Salt Lake City from 18-30 June.
One of two members of the senior Zimbabwe Sevens team to be selected for the trip to the USA, Coles will be playing in his last Under 20s tournament.
The former Head Boy of St John’s College, Harare, who turned 20 in February, wants to bow out on a high by helping his side improve on their results in the two previous campaigns.
Across the eight matches in Georgia (2011) and Russia (2010) the young Sables managed just one win, finishing last of eight and seventh respectively.
But with financial backing coming from the Zimbabwe Government and assistance from abroad in other areas, Coles says they are better placed than ever to make a good impression.
“David Campese, the Australia World Cup star, is coming to speak to us on Saturday at a special function organised for players and parents,” Coles revealed.
“I’ve met him once before and I know about his ‘goosestep’ from watching DVDs about the history of the World Cup but it will be great to meet him again.
“I’m sure the motivation that he can give to the team will be invaluable.”
Thanks to the International Rugby Board’s development programme help has also been forthcoming on the coaching front, with Bright Chivandire’s side already benefitting from the input of Nico de Villiers, a member of the famed Stellenbosch Academy coaching team and a former South Africa Under 21 tighthead prop.
A two-week training camp in France has also been scheduled prior to departure for the USA as a further sign of intent.
“We are definitely more prepared than we have ever been in previous years,” Coles admitted. “With all the opportunities we have been given it will then be up to us as players to make it happen.”
Making a statement
Coles has set his sights high for his team, insisting that Zimbabwe will not be going to the USA for a holiday or to make up the numbers in a pool containing last year’s runners-up Japan, Georgia and Canada.
“I think we have got to get past the mentality that if we win a game we have done well in this tournament,” he said. “We need to try and win as many games as we can and put ourselves on the map.
“There is no point in us going to this tournament just happy to be there and treating it like a holiday, which has happened in the past. We have got to actually be competitive and make a name for ourselves as Zimbabwe Under 20s.”
On a personal level Coles is hoping to put himself in the shop window and move another step closer to his dream of getting a professional rugby contract.
“That’s something I’ve wanted for a long time and is the reason why I went to Hartpury College in England earlier this year,” he explained.
“I went there to get experience of playing in Europe and to get looked at, but it didn’t really work out; I just found the rugby too defensive because of the weather whereas I prefer a more expansive style of play. I’m back in Zimbabwe now and next year I’m going to the University of Cape Town in South Africa.”
While English rugby was not particularly to Coles’s liking, his debut on the Twickenham turf in the London Sevens was more than he could have wished for – even if results did not go the Zimbabwe Cheetahs’ way.
On top of the world
“It was unbelievable playing at Twickenham. As a youngster I never thought I would play there; it was amazing,” he said.
“Having played at Twickenham in front of 60,000 people on day one and another 40-odd thousand on day two gives you a lot of confidence. I just feel on top of the world thinking that I’ve played in front of that many people.
“We beat France in the quarter final of the Bowl but we lost out in a couple of other games which could have gone either way.
“Now I’ve got another tournament to look forward to. It may be considered to be at a lower level than the Sevens but the rugby is going to be very competitive.
“I am hoping to have quite an impact in this tournament and to try and help motivate the new guys in the team to believe that anything is possible.
“We should play as one because we are such a small country and a lot of us have grown up playing rugby together since the age of 13.
“It is my last time with the Under 20s and I am looking to have a good tournament.”
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