Zimbabwe Rugby Union president Aaron Jani has reckoned that the SuperSport Challenge Cup in South Africa has come at the right time as it will help give local players international exposure and build a strong platform for the 2023 World Cup.
The Challenge comes just as the 2019 Rugby Africa Gold Cup tournament has been cancelled. Rugby Africa have been forced to shelve the Gold Cup this year after the tournament's sponsors Kwese withdrew in a move that left the continental body in a quandary.
The cancellation of the Gold Cup would have meant that there would be no international rugby for the majority of the local players.
But, fortunately for players, the ZRU had earlier registered a national representative side, trading as the Zimbabwe Academy to play in the SuperSport Challenge. That side will be under the guidance of former national captain Brendon Dawson, with the assistance of ex-Springboks winger Tonderai Chavhanga.
The SuperSport Challenge is the secondary domestic rugby union competition in South Africa and will attract 15 teams comprising 13 from that country and two internationals -- Zimbabwe Academy and the Namibian Welwitschias. "The SuperSport Challenge has come at crucial time for Zimbabwe Rugby. We needed a competition where we could play with the best, breed some new talent and continue to horn our skills," said Jani.
"The latest developments on the Gold Cup confirms that we made the right decision. For us to regain our position as a rugby powerhouse in Africa, we must play with the best and continue to play with the best. We must expose our youths to regular competition so that they can look forward to playing in the senior team. Our aim is to make sure we are ready to qualify for the 2023 World Cup."
The ZRU boss, who was recently voted into the Rugby Africa executive, also reiterated his union's commitment to serving all the national teams. "The economic environment is very tough and our sponsors are also affected. This means in most cases they cannot sponsor as much as they used to and in some cases they are not able to sponsor anything at all," said Jani.
4 May: Zim v Sharks (False Bay Rugby Club, Cape Town)
12 May: SWD Eagles V Zim (Mossel Bay)
18 May: WP v Zim, (Cape Town)
25 May: Zim v Cheetahs, False Bay Rugby Club (Cape Town)
1 June: Boland v Zim (Wellington)
8 June: Zim v EP (False Bay Cape Town)