ZIMBABWE schools rugby has managed to maintain its high standards of old, says former Prince Edward and Zimbabwe Schools star player Piet Benade.
Gifted fly-half Benade, who is back home in Harare on an injury rehabilitation break from his French Pro D2 club USA Limoges, was part of the Prince Edward Tigers coaching staff during last weekâ€™s Cottcoâ€™s Schools Festival.
Benade captained the famous PE side of 1999/2000 that contained such quality players as Springboks winger Tonderai Chavhanga, Germany utility back Edmore Takaendesa, Botswana eighthman Munyaradzi Mhonda, Zimbabwe tight-head prop Alfred Sairai, Zimbabwe Sevensâ€™ Gordon Pangeti â€” and former Zimbabwe internationals Farai Shava and Forbes Roberts.
â€œI think the talent on show at the Cottco festival this year was right up there with previous years,â€ Benade said. â€œMost of the teams performed very well and showed that this year there wonâ€™t be too many easy games during the (rugby) season.
â€œI think the difference with the 1999/2000 seasons was that PE had such a talented bunch of guys who landed up in the same side. Most schoolboy teams would be happy to have three Craven Week players but we were fortunate to have 10 starting players at the Craven Week in 2000. So it was very tough for the other teams locally to compete. This year there are talented players in many of the sides.â€
The leading schools once again distinguished themselves, Benade said.
â€œI thought all the traditional schools you expect to do well gave very good accounts of themselves.
Churchill played well without much luck in terms of results, Falcon, St Johns and Peterhouse showed they will be very hard to beat this year, Lomagundi and St Georges also gave good accounts of themselves on various days.â€
Former Stellenbosch University and Pumas playmaker, Benade also said teams displayed balance in the weeklong tournament.
â€œZimâ€™s traditional strength is in the backs. We have pace and skill which was shown by some great tries being scored by outside backs. Some teams had good forward packs, in particular Falcon and St Johns.
These teams showed that they are technically sound and have the size to match any team. So in all areas things are not looking too badâ€¦ The problem is never really whether we have young talent, it always seems to be there year after year.
The big worry is what will happen to these players after school where there are not many opportunities to develop further here in Zimbabwe, with the obvious money problems negatively affecting the level of senior club rugby in Zim at the moment.
â€œHopefully some of the boys will be seen performing well at the Craven Week and will get opportunities to attend universities in South Africa on scholarships or bursaries so they can keep playing and developing.â€ â€” Staff Writer.