IN recent years continental Europe has become the dream destination for rugby players from all over the world.
The money is good, and the lifestyle is cool.
Franceâ€™s professional Pro D1 and D2 leagues, it seems, is where every professional rugby player is heading.
The issue of player migration to the northern hemisphere has been a big issue in South Africa where overseas-based players have been left out of the Springboks in favour of locally-based ones.
Following in Franceâ€™s footsteps, Germany has become the next best place in Europe. A minnow in rugby terms, the Rugby-Bundesliga is not fully professional and the rugby is centred in two cities, Heidelberg and Hanover.
This however has not prevented a lot of Englishmen, Aussies, New Zealanders, South Africans, Fijians and South Americans from moving there.
There are even six Zimbabweans now in the Bundesliga, one of them being Germany national team fullback Edmore Takaendesa who was featured in this paper last week.
The game is catching on quite fast, as shown by attendances at matches.
Of the six Zimbabweans, four â€”Takaendesa, loose forwards Costa Dinha and Jeff Tigere and young winger Alex Ndangana â€” are at the same club, RG Heidelberg.
Eighthman Dinha is a former Zimbabwe captain who led the Sables between 2002 and 2003. He returned to play for the Sables in a World Cup qualifier against Namibia last year after a long absence from the team. He has played in Germany for five years.
Flanker Tigere has also played in Germany for five years. The tall former Old Miltonians player turned out for a Zimbabwe Goshawks sevens side in Zambia last year.
Ndangana joined the club this year after being left out of the Zimbabwe squad for the Sevens World Cup in Dubai. Backs Shaun Smit and Manasah Sita, the other Zimbabweans, are on the books of SC Neuenheim. A multi-national club, Neuenheim is also home to two Georgians, three Paraguayans, two South Africans, then an Englishman, Frenchman, South African, Chilean, New Zealander and Namibian.
Sita, who joined former Sables flyhalf Smit at Neuenheim early this year, says the money isnâ€™t that bad.
â€œIt all depends on how you would have negotiated your contract with your club,â€ says Sita. â€œAs for me I stay with a Chilean guy who used to played for the University of Cape Town and the club pays for the apartment and caters for our upkeep. The salary is decent too.â€
Weather and language are a problem for starters like Sita though. He particularly bemoans the conditions which are not conducive for backline players.
â€œItâ€™s a good country and the people are good to us, but sometimes its hard for new guys like me and Alex because of the weather,â€ he says. â€œMost of the times the fields are wet and muddy so its tough to sprint or side-step. Itâ€™s a world of difference from home. Because of the weather play is more in the forwards than, backline.
â€œAs for language, Costa, Taki and Jeff can speak German quite fluently now because theyâ€™ve been here for long. Iâ€™m currently going to a language school to learn the language.â€
A regular winger and occasional centre back home, Sita has settled well at fullback.
â€œI played my first game at fullback and scored a try and from there, that has been my position,â€ he says.
â€œItâ€™s a bit hard for me but Iâ€™m getting used to it. Besides I believe that a good back must be prepared to play anywhere in the line.â€
Despite generation gaps, a special bond exists between the Zimbabwean boys. â€œWe meet like every Saturdays after games,â€ he says.Â â€œWe are family. Costa and Alex were at my flat just now. People love us here because we all do our best for our clubs.
BY ENOCK MUCHINJO