ZIMBABWE Schools rugby team coach Godwin â€œJawsâ€ Murambiwa says the team chosen for next monthâ€™s prestigious Craven Week tournament in South Africa was the best selectors could come up with despite critics labeling it â€œelitistâ€.Â
The strong 22-man squad was named following last weekendâ€™s trials at Plumtree High in Matabeleland.
Peterhouse College hooker Takudzwa Mandiwanza â€“â€“ son of former soccer referee and sports administrator Anthony Mandiwanza â€“â€“ was named captain.
Arguably the best-organised schoolboy event in the world in any sport, the Craven Week is contested by elite South African provincial Under 18 select sides and national teams from Zimbabwe and Namibia.
Murambiwa, a former Zimbabwe senior national team coach, said the Craven Week squad is not a place for quotas.
â€œThe Craven Week is a big event. We need to pick the best players available. This is not a development thing,â€ Murambiwa said.
â€œWe would like to diversify selection, but players from the non-traditional playing schools tend to mature a little later, well after the Craven Week age restriction, unlike, of course, their traditional playing schools counterparts.â€
He cited examples of four players from this yearâ€™s squad who played Craven Week rugby at the Under 14 level.
To give the other players a chance, Murambiwa proposed the formation of a second string schools side.
â€œPerhaps we need to create a Zim â€œAâ€ Schools team,â€ he said. â€œIt gives people the opportunity to play rugby. The rationale is to have more kids representing Zimbabwe at the national level.
The criticism against players from the leading schools is that they donâ€™t stay in Zimbabweâ€¦of course they donâ€™t stay in Zim because they move outside for their tertiary education. They never get the opportunityâ€¦(but) they want to come back and play for the country.
â€œThe Sables donâ€™t have a database like we have. I used to speak a lot to Tendayi Chikukwa (Zim-born South Africa Under 20 eighthman). The boy wanted to play for Zim. But Blue Bulls dangled a big carrot in front of him. They told him he had a chance to play for SA because he played schoolboy there.
But heâ€™s a kid I still talk to. Brighton (Chivandire, Zim Under 19 coach) does the same with the Under 19s. These are professionals and there is a certain way of talking to them.â€
Murambiwa, meanwhile, said the defeats of some leading teams in the schools season this year should not be construed as decline in standards. He said the results, in fact, were a sign that rugby strength was spreading.
Â â€œSt Johns had not lost in two years but PE beat them this year,â€ Murambiwa said. â€œKyle, who are not a traditional playing school, beat Falcon. Jameson, who were struggling â€“â€“ losing to sides like Murehwa â€“â€“ came back strongly. Alan Wilson are playing properly-structured rugby, because they got coaches â€“â€“ things which had faded two to three years ago.â€
Murambiwa however conceded that the selection process had its flaws.
Â â€œYes, selection canâ€™t be 100% right,â€ he said. â€œMaybe we need to look at Cottco as a selection forum. At the moment provincialism is not working. Harare is too strong for the other provinces. Matabeleland were weakâ€¦Falcon and CBC were strong, but Milton and Gifford have lost ground.
â€œEven if you look at the districts schoolsâ€¦In Mash East there is Peterhouse and a weak Watershed. (Mashonaland) West there is Chinhoyi and Lomagundi who are doing well and thatâ€™s it. At the trials, Harare A beat Matabeleland A 60-0. It has never happened before. ZRU has a lot of work to do.â€
The Craven Week is scheduled between July 13 and 18 in East London. Zimbabwe will square off against a South African Academy side on July 14. Their opposition for the other two fixtures on July 16 and 18 will be determined by their performance in the first match.
Skipper Mandiwanza, St Georgeâ€™s prop Zerubabel Makomva, Prince Edward scrumhalf Charles Jiji, and utility back Tom Nelson of Peterhouse are the four survivors from last year. The team contains such players as Andrew Lindsay, Craig and Duncan Dollar, Corry van Rensburg and Richard Sainsbury who also have national junior colours at cricket.
Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Zim Schools Squad
15. Andrew Lindsay (St Johns) 14. Claude Bare (PE) 13. Daniel Turner (Peterhouse) 12. Allen Mpofu (PE) 11. Tererai Nyabonda (Peterhouse) 10. Corry van Rensburg (Falcon) 9. Charles Jiji (PE) 8. Justin Coles (St Johns) 7. Farai Jijita (PE) 6. Richard Todd (St Johns) 5. Takudzwa Jaravaza (St Georgeâ€™s) 4. Ryan Zeederberg (Peterhouse) 3. Richard Sainsbury (St Johns) 2. Takudzwa Mandiwanza (captain, Peterhouse) 1. Zerubabel Makomva (St Georges).
Reserves: 16. Craig Dollar (St Johns) 17. Ian Muza (PE), 18. Luke Rutter (Lomagundi) 19. Killian Denes (Peterhouse) 20. Duncan Dollar (Peterhouse) 21. Joseph Nicholls (St Georgeâ€™s) 22. Tom Nelson (Peterhouse).
BY ENOCK MUCHINJO