Zim attracts more budding rugby stars

CONCERTED efforts to build a solid base for the future continue to receive the thumbs ups from talented Zimbabwean rugby players at home, South Africa and abroad.

By Enock Muchinjo

Exciting back Tatendaishe Mujawo — who has represented South African Schools so could make a case for selection in future Springbok set-ups — headlines a list of new players that have joined the Zimbabwe Academy for the on-going SuperSport Rugby Challenge in South Africa.

The University of Johannesburg speed demon, whose regular position is wing, breaks into the Zimbabwean side’s starting line-up at outside centre for tomorrow’s taxing assignment against Western Province at Newlands.
Schooled at Johannesburg’s St Benedict’s College, Mujawo was part of a strong SA Schools side that took on England, Wales, France and Italy in an Under-19 International Series in 2016.

While agreeing to play for the Zimbabwean outfit in the SuperSport Challenge does not necessarily mean the UJ ace is committing his international future to his country of birth, team manager Jason Maritz said it is, indeed, a sign that players are willing to give the Sables a chance.

“Look, we approached him at the beginning of the campaign and we’ve obviously been monitoring his progress with UJ in the Varsity Cup, we’ve known about him for a while,” Maritz told IndependentSport yesterday.

“He was very keen to get involved with us but studies and a recovery from a small injury prevented him from joining us from the beginning. Now that he is with us we are very excited. I mean, he’s a top-class guy, massive prospect. He has played SA Schools and we are just so happy that he has put his hand up and wants to get involved.

“Naturally this (SuperSport Challenge) event doesn’t cap him, we are an academy side playing in a provincial tournament. This doesn’t limit his prospects going forward but that also being said, bringing him into camp, showing him what we are trying to do, how we are trying to build Zimbabwean rugby, you know, these are the type of players we need to get in the mix and bring the experience and knowledge they’ve gained over the years in South Africa schools and South African rugby.”

Maritz said Zimrugby authorities are, however, trying to convince players like Mujawo that their future as international players lies with the Zimbabwean national team.

“These are the players that we need to help us build Zimbabwe rugby going into the World Cup qualifiers. We are massively excited, we cannot wait for the Province game, it’s obviously a big test, but you know, with the likes of him (Mujawo) involved, Michael Botha who has played for UCT, and we have a few other recruits coming in for this week’s game, we are definitely looking forward to fronting up. So ja, Mujawo is exciting prospect. Look out for him in the future, he’s around for the next two (SuperSport Challenge) games, fortunately, then he goes back to studies. But we are definitely trying to keep him part of our plans in future and keep growing our
database of players,” he said.

Mujawo partners the impressive Takudzwa Chieza, who scored a brilliant try for the Zimbabweans in last weekend’s tantalising clash with SWD Eagles in Mossel Bay.

It is an exciting new centre-pairing to take to the field for the Zimbabweans tomorrow at the famous Cape Town venue.

Other new players in this SuperSport Challenge squad are loose forwards Tonderai Chiwambutsa and Michael Botha, front-rowers David Makanda and Keith Murray, as well as Brian Ncube, who plays either prop or second row.
Chiwambutsa, the Zimbabwe Under-20 captain, starts at open-side flank while Botha, of the False Bay club in Cape Town, is on the bench.

England-raised Ncube — with Hartpury College in Gloucestershire — does not, however, make the match-day 22, having just arrived from the UK.

The beastly young tight-head Cleopas Kundiona, who shone like a beacon in the 31-30 defeat to Eagles last weekend, has been requested to play for his Johannesburg club Raiders this weekend, a big loss for the Zimbabwean side.
His replacement is the experienced national team player Makanda, who was flown in this week from Harare alongside Old Georgians teammate and fellow seasoned international Murray.

Regular captain Brandon Mandivenga has meanwhile shaken off his ankle injury and returns to the side to take his place at fly-half.

The Zimbabwean team, nicknamed Young Bucks, has lost its first three games, although margins of defeats have gone down with each game.

Western Province will provide Brendan Dawson’s charges with their sternest test of character yet, perhaps the most accurate measurement of how the team has progressed.

Starting line-up: 15. Kuda Chiwanza 14. Takudzwa Kumadiro 13. Tatendaishe Mujawo 12. Takudzwa Chieza 11. Matthew McNab 10. Brandon Mandivenga (captain) 9. Hilton Mudariki 8. Njabulo Ndlovu 7. Tonderai Chiwambutsa 6. Biselele Tshamala 5. Godwin Mangenje 4. Jan Ferreira 2. Matthew Mandioma 1. Brandon Sweet.

Substitutes: 16. Keith Murray 17. Royal Mwale 18. Sanele Sibanda 19. Michael Botha 20. Aiden Burnett 21. Jerry Jaravaza 22. Shingi Katsvere.