FOUR years ago, Bruce Hobson was sitting in the cramped Zimbabwe Rugby Union (ZRU) offices at the Harare Sports Club rugby field with then ZRU president Lawrence Majuru, vice-president Bryn Wi
lliams and secretary/treasurer Basil Forster-Jones.
Hobson was then the national Under 21 side manager.
The four gentlemen were discussing rugby matters when suddenly a fax came through. It was an invitation for Zimbabwe to take part in the World Sevens Series in Dubai and George, South Africa.
Sevens rugby was not on the graph for Zimbabwe at the time as the union had enough battle on their hands to run 15s. History recorded that Zimbabwe did not take up the offer, but that sparked off Hobson’s accidental romance with sevens rugby.
“We did not to go the Sevens Series because ZRU said they were not ready, and we did not have capacity for sevens at the time to compete there. We would have embarrassed ourselves,” said Hobson, now the resourceful national manager for the sevens version.
“We had last played sevens at the World Cup in 2001, and I told myself that we really had to restructure our sevens. I said if no one can do it, I will do it. The following year in 2003, we went to Dubai and George, and although we were beaten comprehensively, it was a turning point for us.
“Liam Middleton, who is a Zimbabwean coaching at Hartpury College in the UK, watched us play and was impressed with our skills, but he told us that we needed to get our technique and structures right. So we just needed to put what we had to practice.”
Middleton was later influential in organising training camps for Zimbabwe’s Zambezi Cheetahs at Hartpury. This year, the Zimbabweans were at Hartpury for the second time before going on tour to Holland and Spain for the Amsterdam and Benidorm Sevens, respectively. Middleton was the team’s technical coach on the tour.
“We have far more potential in sevens rugby,” Hobson said. “It suits us very well as a rugby nation. I think we have become fitter, stronger and technically alert.”
In December, Zimbabwe returns to the Sevens Series in the second-leg in George after missing out last year. Sides stand to get further invitations to the other legs of the series in different regions of the world where the whirlwind tournament will be taken. Zimbabwe will not, however, be in Dubai for the first first-leg.
Hobson said: “I’m not too worried that we are not going to Dubai. You play back-to-back in these series and it takes a huge toll. It gives us time to prepare adequately for George.”
A former powerful 15s hooker and loose-head prop for Old Hararians and Mashonaland, Hobson played rugby in Cyprus, Scotland and Canada where he travelled as a young man.
Hobson believes the national 15s side can greatly benefit from using sevens players who are exposed to enhanced conditioning at the Hasquivana Sevens Academy. Hasquivana, Hobson’s initiative, is a training base at Old Georgians Sports Club where players train three times a week.
“It (the academy) takes a lot of dedication, and most of the dedication comes from the players,” said Hobson. “It requires a lot of money. Players need to be motivated to come to training. It’s a lot of work. The most encouraging thing is that most of the clubs now support and understand sevens.”