FAMOUS sports personalities also do get star-struck sometimes when they encounter other celebrated sporting figures, even across different genres.
When Zimbabwe’s ambassador to South Africa hosted a dinner a few months ago for ex-Zimbabwean sports stars living there, Esrom Nyandoro finally got to meet the World Rugby Hall of Famer he used to hear about from his son.
“My son mentioned Kenny to me, saying there was a coach at TUT (Tshwane University of Technology), who wanted him to join his team,” Nyandoro told The NewsHawks this week from Pretoria.
“How I met him (Tsimba) was so funny. There were former Zim sports stars that were invited to the ambassador’s house. The ambassador asked everyone to stand up and introduce themselves. There were two or three other young boys from Zim that I know, who were helped by Kenny to come and play rugby here in SA. So when he introduced himself at the ambassador’s residence, it clicked. I said ‘no, could this be the Mr Kenny that my son was talking about?’ Then when I approached him at the dinner he just said ‘hi, Esrom, how are you doing?’ That’s how we met. Very good guy, very humble, he’s a legend. He’s done it all in rugby here in South Africa. His track- record speaks for itself. Sport is sport, now we never run out of stuff to talk about to each other.”
19-year-old Brandon Nyandoro, the oldest of four sons of the former Zimbabwe international footballer, now plays hooker for TUT. He will this weekend feature for the club in the Under-21 cup final of the Blue Bulls league.
Former Zimbabwe captain Tsimba was appointed TUT Vikings head coach last November after guiding University of Pretoria to the Young Guns trophy in the Varsity Cup last season.
His task is great, uplifting standards of rugby at the 2004-established university, to perhaps one day challenge South Africa’s traditional giants in that sport.
Trusting his good eye for talent, Free State Cheetahs great Tsimba has gone hunting for schoolboy players in the Gauteng area, in an ambitious drive to make TUT a force to reckon with in South African varsity rugby.
At Cornwall Hill College in Centurion near Pretoria, the great Tsimba had been tracking young Brandon Nyandoro since he was in the Under-16s.
From a young age, Brandon knew the line-out moves well and had a great understanding with his props.
He has proven to be a powerful front-rower who is happy to do the dirty work and keep the opposition forwards uncomfortable upfront.
The kind of grit and fearlessness his father used to exhibit on the football pitch for AmaZulu, Mamelodi Sundowns and Zimbabwe.
The 43-year-old former midfield dynamo has a remarkable sporting family, and football would have appeared a no-brainer for the kids: their mother Ruth is a former Zimbabwe women’s footballer.
Brandon has introduced rugby to the clan.
“My son has been schooling me,” Nyandoro remarked. But at first I didn’t understand why he chose rugby because he had done well in his soccer before while he was at Sagewood Primary School. Sagewood was more of a soccer school, but when he transferred to Curro Thatchfield Primary, he found out that they were more into rugby. So I’m still learning, but obviously now I now understand most of the basics.”
But, of course, you cannot discount the battle for control at home with the TV remote, when the two sports are on at the same time.
“When there is both soccer and rugby, I know that I don’t have a chance,” laughed Nyandoro.
“I’ll have to find a way to watch the game, because I also don’t want to disturb him. We support him fully and we’ll see how far he goes with his career. Support is key. I was one of those parents who used to do it wrongly. I would drop my son for matches, and go away to do whatever I was doing. I realised that wasn’t support, so I started to stay on for the afternoons, watching and supporting.”
The Tsimba factor has provided good reason for Brandon to stay and pursue his studies in South Africa, at TUT.
“He wanted to go overseas, and we did all the applications and stuff,” commented Nyandoro. “But I remember my son telling me that Kenny had contacted him. We sat down to discuss and I said ‘if there is a coach who believes you are good at what you do and you can be better than what you already are, do not jump that development stage.’ Sometimes we go ahead of ourselves, only to find out that we are not yet ready. For me, I thought that this was a great opportunity for Brandon, because Kenny is a legend. He has played the game at the highest level, and he knows how to develop a young player. It was man-to-man talk and my son had to go back and rethink. You know kids these days ask for time to think for themselves. Us guys, growing up, didn’t have that privilege. Fortunately he responded positively and said ‘dad, let me give this a try, I also think it’s a wonderful opportunity for me to grow’. I have no doubt, quite honestly, that he is in good hands.”
At the meeting with ambassador David Hamadziripi, the ex-stars discussed ways to help with sports development back home in Zimbabwe. Tsimba attended with some of his rugby boys while most were footballers: Nyandoro, Tapiwa Kapini, Method Mwanjali, Edelbert Dinha.
“I think we can do a lot, a lot,” Nyandoro said. “But it is going to be much easier for people in the diaspora to help if guys at home initiate, and then we all come in to join. Sports unite, sports bring people together. But it has to start back home and then we follow. I always believe that the one who is on the ground knows better than the one who is on the outside.”
Sundowns legend Mwanjali presently holds the post of head scout for Masandawana. One of his colleagues at the Pretoria giants is Zimbabwean icon Peter Ndlovu, the former Warriors captain he played alongside in the national side.
“For me, Peter Ndlovu is one of the best players I’ve played with, and I actually shared a room with him,” commented Nyandoro.
“I think I’m the lucky one. I grew up supporting the Dream Team (Zimbabwe’s old nickname). At that time I never imagined I could rub shoulders with some of the players in the Dream Team – the late Adam Ndlovu, Peter Ndlovu, Agent Sawu, the Mugeyis, Dumisani Mpofu. I’m privileged to work with him. He guides me all the time, saying ‘Esrom there is a player there, and another there’. So it’s always nice to have a big brother on your corner. He’s played that part for me, and I’ll ever be grateful for the guidance he has given me over the years. I played with Peter Ndlovu and I shared a room with him. They say dreams come true; for me growing up supporting the Dream Team, and then not only go on to play with one of the Dream Team legends, one of the greatest to wear our national colours, was a dream come true.”
Brandon Tinashe Nyandoro is also starting to live his dream, slightly differently.