FORMER Australian rugby captain, David Pocock has donated a signed Wallabies shirt to Zimbabwe Rugby's fundraising initiatives for the country's senior national rugby team's bid to qualify for the 2023 Rugby World Cup to be held in France.
The 32-year-old Zimbabwe-born rugby legend, who retired from professional rugby last October after a glittering 15 year career, is widely regarded as one of the country's finest rugby exports of his generation.
Two months ago, Pocock along with compatriot Tendai Mtawarira, who enjoyed a similarly successful career with neighbouring South Africa were named in World Rugby's Team of the Decade, by the game's global rugby governing body in recognition of their contribution to the sport for the period 2010 to 2019.
Pocock recently expressed his willingness to support his country of birth's quest to qualify for their first Rugby World Cup since 1991 and accepted an ambassadorial role for the team along with Zimbabwe-born former Springboks, Adrian Garvey, Mtawarira and Tonderai Chavhanga as well as ex-England player Don Armand.
The rugby icon, born and initially raised in the Zimbabwean Midlands capital Gweru, handed over one of his prized autographed Australia rugby team shirts to one of Zimbabwe's senior players, Hilton Mudariki on Tuesday.
The shirt and other rugby memorabilia items will be auctioned on the online fundraising platform sablesrugbynetwork.com in an effort to raise funds for the Sables who have set sights on qualifying for the next World Cup.
An elated Mudariki, who captained the Sables when they last played international rugby in 2019 announced Pocock's gesture on his social media platforms.
"Honoured to have met former @wallabies captain and now @zimbabwesables ambassador @davidpocock. David has kindly donated his jersey which will be auctioned. For more info kindly go onto: https://sablesrugbynetwork.com," Mudariki said on his social media accounts.
The Sables technical team last year launched the Sables Rugby Network, an interactive online platform meant to attract all Sables supporters around the world to sign up, support and be updated with Sables news as the team continues to build up for the World Cup qualifiers.
In addition to getting deeper insights into on-and-off field developments within the Sables camp, the fans around the world can also use the platform to take part in an auction and raffle meant to raise funds for the Sables Trust.
The Sables Trust, which was launched three years ago, is a welfare body set up to help Zimbabwe's national side qualify for its first World Cup since 1991.
The trust has over the last three years played a key role in identifying and securing top-class Zimbabwean players scattered across the globe, availing elite training programmes, sourcing sponsorship, warm-up matches, and strengthening ties with South Africa, amongst others.
Pocock's rugby shirt is among several items which will be up for grabs during the online auction which will run until April 15 together with a signed copy of Mtawarira's autobiography and signed rugby shirts for former England centre Brad Barritt and Armand's signed Exeter Chiefs shirt.
The former Australian captain, who has maintained a strong connection with Zimbabwe last year said he was encouraged by the strides made in developing the game in the country which he believes could inspire a return to the upper echelons of the game.
"I have been in touch with some of the coaches involved with Zimbabwe rugby and they are doing the same thing, trying to really get their structures in place to be able to hold talent," Pocock said in an interview with rugbyworldcup.com during the previous World Cup in Japan.
"Sure you are going to lose your best overseas, but in an ideal world, they will be playing overseas and then coming back for international duties.
"What you see a lot of in the world is players going overseas at a young age and then representing another country, which for smaller teams obviously hurts a little."
Pocock is one of the many most high-profile Zimbabwean players to have pursued an elite-level rugby career elsewhere.
The former Midlands Christian School pupil was just 12 years old when he and his family were forced to flee the country after their farm was seized during the chaotic land reform programme at the turn of the millennium.
After migrating to Brisbane, Australia the young Pocock rose through the ranks on his way to becoming one of the greatest Wallabies of all time.
The open-side specialist is part of a very long list of Zimbabwe-born players to shine in other colours on the world stage.
Some of the names that quickly come to mind include the record breaking legendary Springbok prop Tendai "Beast" Mtawatira, ex-Springbok captain Bobby Skinstad, former USA star winger Takudzwa Ngwenya, the England-based quartet of Marco Mama, Mike Williams, Don Armand and Dave Ewers just to mention a few.
Marondera-born Sebastian Negri was also part of the Italy side at the previous World Cup in Japan.