The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: ZRU Moot National Academies Project

NATIONAL rugby academies funded largely by foreign companies are on the cards as the Zimbabwe Rugby Union prepares to nurture the junior talent.

The project -- which is expected to come to life inside the next 18 months -- is also expected to minimise the loss of players to other countries.

ZRU president John Falkenberg revealed that the union is planning to have national rugby academies starting with Harare, Bulawayo and Gweru as the first centres.

Australian rugby legend and coach David Campese -- who helped the Young Sables in their preparations for the 2012 Junior World Rugby Trophy -- will head the developmental project that is expected to retain players after high school.

According to Falkenberg, the project is likely to come into life between late next year and early 2014 and players will also be enrolled at various universities in the three cities with the ZRU taking care of them.

"Its going to be a huge project a lot of funding from mostly foreign companies have come in thanks to the help from Campese who has been very instrumental to the development of the project.

"The project is likely to get into life in the next year or so because at the moment we are about 80 percent done in terms of the paperwork including sponsorship and funding.

"The whole point of us having such kind of a project is to try and minimise the amount of talent we lose to other countries and develop our own players who cannot afford to go abroad. To make it up to standard we will also be working with tertiary and universities in the country so that the players in the academies also get academic qualifications while playing rugby so that they have a fall back plan in case of things like injuries and retirement," said Falkenberg.

The Sharks academy in South Africa taken aboard more than 15 players over the past year with players attending both college and rugby sessions during their stay and such is the set-up the ZRU would like to adopt.

Zimbabwe has over the years lost a number of players to other countries and has become known as the feeder nation having produced world class talent and losing it to countries like Scotland , Australia and South Africa .

Tendai "Beast" Mtawarira, Tonderai Chavanga, Brian Mujati are some of the Zimbabwean players that have played for the Springboks, while David Denton plays for Scotland with David Pocock featuring for Australia.

Rugby has not been taken seriously in universities and tertiary institutions in Zimbabwe and Falkenberg believes having the national academies will help reduce the gap between schoolboy rugby and senior teams.

"Australian rugby legend David Campese has expressed interest in relocating to Zimbabwe , he is married to a Zimbabwean and he liked the place when he came to help out the Young Sables with their preparations for the Junior World Rugby Trophy so he will be working as the academy director.

"And if all goes to plan effectively will be staying here in Zimbabwe and he is one of the key players in this project as he has helped raise much of the needed funding for this project with companies from abroad," said Falkenberg.

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