DAVID Pocock, former Australia rugby captain, says he idolises record-breaking Springbok Tonderai Chavhanga who, like him, rose from down in Zimbabwe to play international rugby for one of the dominant powers in the sport in the world.
Pocock — born and initially raised in the Zimbabwean Midlands capital Gweru —last week announced his retirement
from professional rugby after a 15-year career.
The 32-year-old, who exited the international arena after 83 Tests following the World Cup last year, also opted against completing his contract with Japanese side Panasonic Wild Knights.
While he had a longer and more successful international career than his injury-ravaged fellow countryman Chavhanga, Pocock spoke of his great admiration for the four-time capped South Africa winger.
Chavhanga made his Springbok debut under Jake White against Uruguay in 2005 before Pocock — four years his junior — was capped for the first time by Australia in 2008.
Pocock, who had moved from Zimbabwe to Australia in 2002 at the height of land seizures, watched on television as a 21-year-old Chavhanga scored six tries on debut — a Bok record to this day — in a 134-3 win.
“I have met with various coaches and administrators over the years when I have been back in Zimbabwe, but I have mainly stayed in touch with Tonderai Chavhanga and (Zimbabwe’s head coach) Brendan Dawson,” Pocock told The
NewsHawks this week after announcing his retirement.
“Tondies was a hero of mine, watching him play for the Springboks, and I was lucky enough to get to play against him and we have developed a friendship over the years.”
Chavhanga was Zimbabwe’s assistant coach for a brief period until leaving the role in July due to pressing commitments elsewhere.
However, the ex-Stormers and Lions speedster has continued to profess undying love for his country of birth, just like his good friend and former on-field rival Pocock.
Open-side flanker Pocock, who played at his first Rugby World Cup in 2011, was considered one of the best players of his era in that position.
Pocock went on to play in two more World Cup editions for Australia, in 2015 and 2019, but seeing his native Zimbabwe return to the game’s greatest stage for the first time since 1991 is something the Wallabies legend will savour.
“I have really enjoyed catching up with fellow Zimbabweans at the three World Cups I have played in but, more than anything, I’d love to see the Sables at a World Cup,” Pocock said.
The other Zimbabwean-born players referred to by Pocock are Takudzwa Ngwenya, Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira and Sebastian Negri. The three have over the past four World Cup tournaments featured for the United States, South Africa and Italy respectively.
In his retirement, the Australia great — who also works with conservation charities in Zimbabwe — has pledged to help uplift the standards of rugby in his birthplace. Pocock played rugby at Midlands Christian College in Gweru and represented his home province at schoolboy level.
“I am so grateful for the start Zimbabwe school rugby gave me,” Pocock said.
“Whether it’s ambassadorial or skills support, I hope retirement gives me more time to find ways to contribute. It’s not just rugby. I’ve also been working on an agriculture and conservation project near Beitbridge for the last few years. I’m looking forward to being able to contribute more. I had never imagined leaving Zimbabwe and have many fond memories of the country, including playing rugby at school and representing Midlands.”
Playing 83 Test caps for one of the greatest rugby nations on the planet is no small feat, but for Pocock his one great desire is to help Zimbabwe keep some of its world-class players in the local system.
“There have obviously been some very challenging times for all Zimbabweans, not just rugby. A lot of talent has been lost as players seek professional contracts elsewhere and go on to play for other countries,” he said.
“There are a number of players from Zimbabwe playing overseas. I would love to see more being retained and playing for the national team or finding ways to contribute to Zimbabwe’s success.