A well-oiled team bonded together by its richness of diversity
OF COURSE, yes, it was a thoroughly pleasing team effort, and collective pride was displayed when Zimbabwe’s unstoppable Under-20 rugby team went another gear up this year to retain their Youth Africa Cup title in Kenya in swashbuckling style.
But in sport these days, because of all the sacrifices and investments that institutes make in the developing of elite athletes –, be they schools, clubs, academies, even individuals – it is completely understandable for people sometimes, just for a moment, to single out their own for special mention.
Lomagundi College did that proudly when the triumphant delegation landed at RGM International Airport from Kenya on Monday with the Barthes Trophy. The Chinhoyi private school paraded its six Junior Sables champions, six of them, the largest contingent of graduates from the same school in the talent-packed Zimbabwe youth side.
Furthest left, beaming smile on his face, and holding his player-of-the-tournament award is the outstanding centre Alex Nyamunda. The robust Zimbabwe midfielder totally set the Nyayo National Stadium alight over three games with his spellbinding performances that will be spoken of in amazement for quite a long time by those privileged to have witnessed the Zimbabwean virtuoso on song.
The big fellow with the dreadlocks, in the middle and brandishing the Barthes Trophy, is Tadiwa Chimwada. An unbelievably huge tight-head for his age, Chimwada was immensely important to head coach Shaun De Souza’s approach of going with a heavy pack of forwards early on.
Chimwada started all three encounters for Zimbabwe and together with his front-row partners they executed their task superbly before the more mobile props came in as part of the “bomb squad” to finish off the opposition.
Hooker Bryan Chiang, second from left in the picture, was a mainstay in the middle of that Zimbabwe front-row.
Sizzling winger and try-machine Edward Sigauke, next to Chiang, was another chief tormentor for Zimbabwe who will not be forgotten easily by the Nairobi spectators and opponents alike.
Junior Sables vice-captain and fly-half Brendon Marume, far right in the Lomagundi alumni photo, handled the so-called “pretty boy position of the team” with admirable maturity. Marume called the shots with the composure of a seasoned 10, perhaps the experience from his brief stint in the senior Sables set-up showing.
Tanaka Chinyanga, next to Marume, didn’t see much action but showed glimpses of his obvious talents when he was introduced.
Lomagundi, situated in a picturesque valley in Chinhoyi, 130km from Harare, is historically one of Zimbabwe’s top private schools.
Established in 1983, Lomagundi has a proud all-round sporting heritage, with some of its better known products of recent times being former Dynamos FC footballer Farai Mupasiri and current Zimbabwe cricket captain Craig Ervine.
Across town in Chinhoyi lies Lomagundi’s neighbours, Chinhoyi High School. They appropriately named after the town, simply because they are came much earlier than their richer neighbours Lomagundi. Chinhoyi High were formed back in 1960 and as the town and province’s flagship school in times gone by, they became a force to reckon with nationally across different sporting codes.
But with time and as institutions went through drastic transformation throughout the nation, Chinhoyi and many other similar schools across the nation fell victim to those changes. For a number of decades, weighed down by Zimbabwe’s well-documented challenges, these schools haven’t been able to hold their own or even raise a full team, certainly in a sport like rugby.
It is therefore no small feat that an ex-pupil of Chinhoyi High School, winger Panashe Mugorogodi, was a member of the victorious Junior Sables squad that received a fitting heroes’ welcome at the airport on Workers’ Day after outclassing host Kenya 28-7 in the final the previous day.
And this is not an accident, mind you, it is clear vision and foresightedness now starting to bear fruit. Coach De Souza and his backroom staff must take a huge amount of credit for that. They have taken back rugby to the people, so to speak, and it’s working like a charm for the Junior Sables at the moment.
The Junior Sables unit is still cosmopolitan, there are players in there who went to the top-rugby playing schools in Zimbabwe – yours Falcons, Peterhouses and St John’s Colleges – bringing a multicultural aspect that gives the side a unique blend of flair and grit.
No players that can possibly be brought in are being left out. The loose-head prop Nqobile Manyara, for example, attended Michaelhouse College, one of South Africa’s most prestigious private schools with its fair share of Springboks that passed through its gates.
Benoni Nhekairo, Stan Muranganwa and Brendan Jameson – who also had roles in Kenya – were schooled in South Africa too, at Kingswood College.
The coaching in those kind of schools is remarkably top-class, and when the players now fall into the no less capable hands of De Souza and his assistants Costa Dinha and Marvin Chirume – all former Zimbabwe internationals – they are just getting better and adding on to what they have learnt elsewhere.
It’s just a pool of boys from different places, another one who was at Allan Wilson, another one from the relatively new Wise Owl School, altogether making up one big happy team that’s well-coached by a trio of unquestionable credentials and professional integrity.
There are no short-cuts to success. De Souza and his right-hand men have been running what they call a high-performance centre of the past couple of years, where players in the system are part of a monitored system that makes it compulsory for the locally-based group to play club rugby in the country.
The National Under-20 League that opened the season was a hit with the fans, who turned up in encouraging numbers every match day. Many of those spectators wouldn’t have been surprised to see a lanky youngster from Chinhoyi High being part of the squad sent to defend Zimbabwe’s title in Kenya, because they had seen Panashe Mugorogodi weave his magic for Pitbulls in the very exciting and tightly-contested Under20 league.
All of these glorious African champions will now be featuring for their respective local clubs’ senior teams in the recently started main league, so don’t be surprised to see a few new faces in the squad boarding the plane back to Kenya in July for the World Rugby Under-20 Trophy.