TWO former Zimbabwe rugby internationals, Arnold Takawira and Norman Mutiba, passed away in recent weeks. Former Sables coach Godwin Murambiwa pays tribute to them.
They were known as the Midlands Mafia. That is how we called the late Arnold Takawira, who died in South Africa on Sunday aged 40 from injuries sustained in a car crash, and his former Gweru Sports Club teammate Gilbert Nyamutsamba.
It was the mid 1990s and I was the coach of Old Hararians. During those years, it was hard to go to Gweru Sports Club and win a game. Besides being the flyhalf, Arnold was also responsible for running the Sports Club. I felt in those years Arnold should have been called up to the national sevens squad.
He would come up to me and say: “Coach, here in Gweru even if they don’t look at us, we just get on with it.”
Years later, both Arnold and Gilbert moved to Bulawayo. The sad end to Gweru Sports Club and rugby in the Midlands also followed. Then when he started playing for Matabeleland Busters, I remember calling Arnold up to the national squad in 2002 as one of the senior players. And he “just got on with it,” as he was fond of saying.
In later years he was to be involved with schoolboy rugby, helping out at Christian Brothers College. Kizito Muhomba the, the CBC sports director, still speaks highly of his contribution. He had recently teamed up with Sean Robinson to revive Busters as a Zimbabwean rugby powerhouse. Arnold Takawira was a soft-spoken man who always gave his best to his beloved sport. He touched our lives, he was full of life and had wonderful rugby energy.
When I heard of his passing, I remembered with sadness watching him playing fly-half for Busters this year. Proudly for Arnold, the Number 9 jersey was donned by his 19-year-old son, the talented Bradley. It might not be the first instance a father and his son have played in the same sports team, but I’m sure it’s world rugby’s first dad/son half-back combination!
Hamba Kahle, ‘Warrior’, God be with you. The Zimbabwe rugby community has been robbed of a wonderful man who loved his game and contributed immensely to rugby Development in our country.
Nomara, as we used to call him, was a very good scrummager, having risen through the ranks at the Old Miltonians club in Bulawayo. We always remember that terrible incident in Limpopo, South Africa, when he was bitten by a dog, nearly ending his career. Had it not been for this, Nomara would have entered the ranks of Sables much earlier than he eventually did.
I remember a very frustrated front row player in Musina, South Africa, punching Nomara bluntly and getting carded after he had been scrummed blue/black by Norman. In modern day rugby this is what is lacking in the front row, to get that scrum going. In those days, with such a skill, Norman was fearless and many a front row feared him.
Again we have been robbed of another person who would have been able to continue teaching our local youngsters that fine art which has been mastered by so few rugby greats, front row play. He was only 33. We will miss you Nomara.
By Godwin Murambiwa