Young Sables eager to show progress

RESPECTED coach Godwin Murambiwa, now in charge of the Zimbabwe Under 20 rugby side, has spoken highly of the sport in the country ahead of the IRB Junior World Rugby Trophy in Russia.

“It is important for us to play in the Junior World Rugby Trophy,” Murambiwa told Total Rugby Radio this week.

“If you come from these parts people tend to know South Africa a lot more than Zimbabwe. But as far as rugby at this level, at junior up to Under 20, we are very competitive and we have got better when senior rugby has suffered problems with everything that has happened in these parts.

“Schoolboy and junior rugby has grown a lot stronger. We always watch South Africa because they are next door. A lot of our kids look up to South Africa, but our coming to the Junior World Rugby Trophy as an African representative means a lot.

“It is huge. We were very happy to qualify last year. We can take stock and see how far we have progressed. We went to the tournament in 2007 and failed to qualify the following year.

“There is a lot more interest now with kids realising they can play rugby at world championship level as a junior, so it is important to keep the interest so we don’t lose kids to other sports. Hockey and soccer are trying to get as many kids as possible, so it is important for us to play in this competition.

“In schools the sport has remained vibrant, but only now have the clubs started to come back because the money is there. So as long as we are operating at development level where we think we are, there are possibilities for Zimbabwe to become one of the lead packs in African rugby,” Murambiwa said.

Zimbabwe will kick off their campaign on Tuesday against Canada, one of four sides in the eight-team field who played in last year’s IRB Junior World Championship in Japan. They will then face Japan on May 22 before their final Pool B match against hosts Russia on May 26.

“It will be difficult for us,” admitted Murambiwa. “We have just looked at the stats on the website and the Canadians and Japanese are by far bigger than our boys, so we will have to concentrate in other areas where they won’t be able to match us.

“We have very quick boys from this part of the world. We have a young, exciting team with most of our youngsters playing in parts of South Africa, but we also have some playing as far off as Australia and in England.

“We have a good mix, certainly a lot better than the side we took to Ireland in 2007. The first games are always difficult because you are sizing each other up, but you can learn about your opponents if you want to,” he said — irb.com.

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