13 July 2013

Zimbabwe: It's Sad We Will Lose All This Talent

THE euphoria that Zimbabwe rugby is flying once again might be a short-lived experience if the country is set to lose more players who will chose to wear foreign colours in search of greener pastures.

Both the Sables and the steamrolling Young Sables have brought surprise smiles on rugby lovers back home with victories over Madagascar and an unbeaten run in the Coca-Cola Craven Week.

But the vast delta that lies between the Under-18 team and the Sables has become something that the Zimbabwe Rugby Union chiefs have failed to bridge.

Instead of harvesting the fruits of the years that it puts into rugby development in schools, Zimbabwe has become a breeding ground for international clubs and other nations who poach its free talent at a huge expense for the national team.

South Africa Rugby Union is one such beneficiary with a long list of franchise rugby players making it into team.

SARU chief executive, Jurie Roux, said: "I think Zimbabwean rugby is growing but they need exposure because it is all good and well to play against yourselves but at some point you need to go and play other teams.

"We did try last year to get them into the Currie Cup First Division, I think it is a step too high for them, hopefully we can get them involved in the Vodacom Cup and maybe get the other teams involved and that will the right direction for them to take."

Zimbabwe Cricket were is a similar position in 2007 and the cream of local cricketers formed the Zimbabwe Chevrons which took part in the South African Standard Bank Pro20 Series.

Former Sables flyhalf and Old Hararians captain Tichafara Makwanya is also proud of this year's Craven week team but fears that the merry making will end when the boys leave school.

"Right now everyone is happy with the Craven week team but what comes for the boys afterwards? We do not have structures even if we retain them what do we do with them after two years?

"The local league isn't good enough to cater for all the talent we are having and the national teams continue to lose out," said Makwanya.

Zimbabwe has the COTTCO rugby, the biggest schools festival in the world, and over 5000 players took part this year, but once the boys complete their studies, doors open for them to pursue their careers elsewhere.

"I don't think you are going to have a lot of these Under-18s left after this because the scouts will be out for them, but I think they play a great style of rugby and have had great victories so far," said Roux.

"Within your own structures as Zimbabwe, I think your school structures are very important and we all know those schools. As long as those are kept intact then you will remain competitive.

"Zimbabwe needs to fill the gap between the Under-18s and the senior side, hopefully inclusion into either the ABSA Currie Cup Under-21 competition or other competitions in universities like the Varsity Cup will help.

"We need to have some form of engagement at some level to start and hopefully through CAR (Confederation of African Rugby) we can do that."

The Cheetahs have twice failed to gain core membership in the IRB Sevens circuit, which would have injected enough capital into the sport to turn at least one version of it professional.

With the massive leakage of talent, the situation worsens as the seasoned and committed players are reaching the twilight of their careers.

Already, Brendon Mandivenga and his captain Daniel Moolman are headed for the Leicestershire Tigers in England while the rest of their teammates have their eyes set on universities and academies such as The Sharks.

Below is a list of some of the greatest names we planted, grew and never harvested the fruits as a nation because they ended up playing elsewhere.

Tendai 'Beast' Mtawarira (South Africa & the Sharks)

Tonderai Chavhanga (South Africa)

David Pocock (Australia)

Kyle Godwin (Australia)

Brian Mujati (South Africa & French league)

Takudzwa Ngwenya (USA & French league)

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