HomeSportShava's incredible rise

Shava’s incredible rise

By Enock Muchinjo

TWO seasons. Two championship medals. Twice the hero. That is the story of Farai Shava’s dream start to his rugby career.

s-serif”>With a lanky boyish appearance, Shava is not a schoolboy’s idea of a national team rugby player. The Old Hararians (OH) utility back belongs to a new crop of slim but quicker players who have added flair to a traditionally rough game previously known for its musclemen.

The 22-year-old’s first two seasons in club rugby have simply been out of the ordinary. He ensured OH of their third and fourth consecutive titles with sterling performances for two seasons.

In this year’s final, the score was 8-6 to the Old Boys with eight minutes of play remaining and their opponents, University, pouring in numbers seeking to take over the lead.

In a tense match, OH won a penalty on the halfway line. Shava, who had come in as a substitute, lined up to take the kick. It was a long way from the posts, but the moment the ball left his left boot everyone at the ground held their breath in anticipation of another Shava special.

Even the University fans stopped jeering as they watched the ball traverse through the air and dipping between the posts.

“My kicking is natural. I do not practice it at all. I just kick for post,” said Shava, who finished as the league’s top point scorer for the second consecutive season.

Shava’s performance this year invoked memories of last season when OH clashed with Bulawayo side Western Panthers in the finals. With the game delicately poised for a nail-biting end, Shava received a pass from his captain Rocky Gurumani at the halfway line. From that distance, Shava decided he would use his two weapons, space and time. He beat all the Panthers backs for sheer speed in breathtaking fashion before crossing over for the winning try.

“It felt great to perform the way I did in two consecutive finals,” he said. “This year was particularly special. When I was still on the bench watching University threatening to beat us I told myself that if I got a chance to play, I would kill it off. I got in, we got a penalty, and I just had to score.”

Shava grew up in Harare’s Glen Lorne suburb and attended Hellenics and Alexandra Park Junior Schools. He recalls one of his earliest “exploits”. It was when he refused to go to St Johns College for his secondary education just a day before schools opened because the school was too “elitist” for his liking. His father gave in and he secured a last-minute place for him at Prince Edward (PE).

At PE, Shava’s first rugby coach was John Falkenburg, later to become his first club coach at OH. He played for the Under-14 and Under-15 teams in his first two years and the Under-16’s while in form three in 1998.

After outstanding seasons in 1999 and 2000 as the second team flyhalf, he finally made the Tigers in 2001 while in upper six.

He took a break from rugby for the whole of 2002 after leaving school and worked for a television subscription company.

“That year my body was itching for rugby. I couldn’t stand the feeling. So last year I went hunting for a club. As a former PE boy, I felt it was only right for me to join OH,” Shava said.

He re-united with Falkenburg, who did not hesitate giving him a first team jersey instantly and the veteran mentor must be proud of the exploits by his former student.

Three weeks ago, Shava earned his first national team call-up.

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