Rugby star returns with burning ambition

Enock Muchinjo

TWELVE-YEAR career abroad . . . 33 years of age . . . now settled back home. Pretty much your basic swansong, right? Not for Max Madziwa.



elvetica, sans-serif”>The nostalgia of leaving a stable country and returning to a ruined one does not exactly show on Zimbabwe rugby captain Max Madziwa’s countenance.

Life in the United Kingdom helped Madziwa to get to grips with life. His patriotic leaf, though, did not completely forget the tree from which it fell.


“It was a personal and business decision”, Madziwa said. “Home is best. I know it sounds politically correct to say. But when you live abroad for more that 10 years, you feel at some stage that you want to come back home.


“Plus remember that when we left, it was not for the same reasons that people are leaving these days. We were not running away from the economic problems. We were young, and we wanted to explore.


“I decided that it was the right time to come back and see what I can give back to rugby. Zimbabwe rugby is what got me to what I am. My burning ambition was to play for Zimbabwe. When I left I had only played for Goshawks. So it was an honour for me to play for Zimbabwe this year, and captain the side.”


Coming back to Zimbabwe gave Madziwa the opportunity to concentrate on life’s more pressing matters – like his British-born wife Carol and two young children, his eight-year-old son Tatenda and daughter Sekai (two).


The boy is already in the schools’ rugby team at Heritage Junior, where his dad helps with the coaching.


“Zimbabwe is a better environment to raise kids,” he said. “Looking at my family and business (he runs a print origination company), it made sense to come back. There is more space and time here to be with the family. In the UK it’s all hectic. Here it’s laid back.”


Madziwa left Prince Edward School in 1992 where he captained the Tigers. Then the following year he was signed up by London Wasps, a side in the English First Division, now the English Premiership. Madziwa’s former PE friend, Kennedy Tsimba, and Victor Olonga from Plumtree followed in his footsteps when they were recruited by Wasps six months later.


At Wasps, the three young Zimbabwean trio, made instant impact in a proficient Wasps Under 21 side that also starred lock forward Lawrence Dallaglio, later to become an inspirational England captain.


Madziwa graduated from the youth side to sit on the first team bench. But a shoulder injury bust his rise to the top of the English game, as he could no longer compete favourably with the loose forwards at the club.


He joined Lawnswood Academy in London, but they became unsustainable, and they later folded. Madziwa was on the move again, leaving London for the north of England, to join Second Division side Leeds.


Leeds helped Madziwa mend his career, and mostly his confidence. While playing for them, Madziwa won selection to the Yorkshire President’s XI – the highlight of his rugby career in the UK.


“I had a brilliant spell. The coaching there was top-class and sessions were well-drilled. I met a lot of English rugby professionals, guys who gave their lives to rugby. I learnt a lot from them.”


Watching Madziwa leading the Sables superbly in their failed World Cup campaign this year, there was no doubting that the English game discovered in Madziwa a rugby head, and refined it. As a blind-side flank, his position since school, Madziwa tackles bravely and defends exceptionally in turnover. At the same time, he is quick on his feet, and has sufficient ball skills any coach would want in a forward.


Madziwa is a big bloke; when he is there in front of you, you is startled by his brawny appearance. Yet he is a player who has ability to retain high standards of sportsmanship and fair play.


Yet, again, Madziwa is a different person off the field of play. If there was a party after a rugby match, you can bet your last half a million Zim dollars that Madziwa would be there until the beers are finished.


Now Madziwa has committed himself to get more involved in local rugby in some capacity.


“I’m going to get involved in the game now, whether its playing, coaching, or whatever,” he said.


Madziwa is committed and passionate. But he now stays in a country where passion can be killed, eroded over troubled times by mudslinging and lack of feasibility. Can Madziwa last the distance? The money factor aside, what really is in short supply in local rugby? Where does he feel he can contribute?


“We definitely have the skills and the raw talent at school level,” he articulated. “The problem is when we move to the senior level. There is a huge gap between the two.


“We have a guy like ‘Too Bad’ (Tangai Nemadire), who is a brilliant young player. But he is coming straight from school, and it’s a big task for him to play at senior level instantly. We need to reduce that gap. That is where I think I can contribute.”


Madziwa also spoke highly of Chris Lampard, the Zimbabwe coach who came under attack for his coaching tactics in the qualifiers. Madziwa believes the criticism against the veteran trainer was unjustified.

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