Tonderai Chavhanga, the record-breaking Springbok, has joined other leading Zimbabwean personalities in lauding the country's entry into the SuperSport Rugby Challenge.
A national select team will make its debut in South Africa's second-tier first-class competition this year, beginning at the end of April.
Chavhanga said participation in the SuperSport Challenge can turn Zimbabwe into an African powerhouse again.
Having himself played in the Vodacom Cup, the first-class competition that was replaced by the Rugby Challenge, Chavhanga knows exactly how Zimbabwe can benefit from the competition.
"I think it's a very smart move by SARU (South African Rugby Union) and SuperSport as Zimbabwe has the biggest rugby market outside of South Africa, so it only makes sense because they know they have a market," Chavhanga said.
The former Stormers and Lions flying winger added that Zimbabwe's entry will atone for the failure to qualify for this year's World Cup, and also incentivise local players to stay in Zimbabwean rugby.
"After last year's disappointment in the Gold Cup, the opportunity for the Sables to participate in the SuperSport Challenge is indeed a great opportunity for our players to be tested at a high level and for them to showcase their talents to the world," he said, adding: "For a long time we have struggled retaining our best talent after school and I believe playing in the SuperSport Challenge will incentivise our players to play for the Sables because of the exposure and level of competition they would be facing every time they take to the field. I think that if we can develop and manage our players better, we can become the rugby force that we should be."
World Rugby Hall of Fame inductee, Kennedy Tsimba, another big name in South African rugby in his heyday, said younger Zimbabwean players should also be exposed to tougher competition in South Africa. "I will like us to invest in our Under-20 league and look to expose them to similar competitive matches as we look to the future before. Before we know it, the next World Cup qualifiers will be upon us," Tsimba said.
Former Zimbabwe utility back Gerald Sibanda remarked: "Every young player's dream is to play pro rugby and earn a good living from his talent and, if a player can do it playing for his country, it means Zimrugby can start retaining most of the talented players from schools rugby. I hope our participation can open up bigger doors for Zimrugby to start being run professionally and allow us to have a chance to play at the 2023 World Cup."