TINO Mavesere’s debut for Sharks in the United Rugby Championship a fortnight ago would have got the incoming Zimbabwe coach drooling because it raises the number of players from this country plying their trade at the highest level of competition in the top tier nations of world rugby.
Loose-forward Mavesere, with South African franchise Sharks, is following in the footsteps of Springboks legend Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira, who also made his name at the Durban-based team.
The 24-year-old from Kadoma becomes only the second Zimbabwean-qualifying player in the URC – which comprises of provincial teams from South Africa, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales.
Mavesere, who like Mtawarira went through Churchill Boys High School in Harare, has caps with Zimbabwe’s national team and appears to have his international career firmly with the Sables despite talk of Springbok ambitions when he finishes the eligibility period.
The red-hot range of Zimbabwean talent should thoroughly excite whoever is going to take over as Sables coach. It presents Zimbabwe’s best chance of qualifying for the World Cup since the African country’s last participation there in 1991.
Out in France, there are two players there in the French Top 14 – elusive wing TJ Maguranyanga and steely eighth-man Shingi Manyarara – of Racing 92 and ASM Clermont Auvergne respectively.
Both have represented Zimbabwe at youth level, and Manyarara is the new captain of the country’s Under-20 side that’s out to defend its African title in Harare in April. In France he plays alongside iconic South Africa captain Siya Kolisi, a fellow loose-forward.
Explosive utility back Tapiwa Mafura, who made his Zimbabwe debut in the last World Cup qualifiers after so much courting from his country of birth, is with Cheetahs and helped the Bloemfontein side clinch the Currie Cup in 2023. The South African-raised livewire is 26, so should still be in the mix when Zimbabwe try to qualify for the 2027 World Cup in Australia.
In Italy there is Eli Snyman, another URC player, with the Benetton Rugby club.
Harare-born Snyman played for South Africa at Under-20 level, but the former University of Pretoria powerful lock forward is 28 now, and the possibility of a senior Test career appears more likely now with his native Zimbabwe.
The Zimbabwean talent is spread across the rugby playing world, because in the United States you have the 26-year-old back-rower Tinashe Muchena of Major League Rugby side Hounds.
The former head-boy of St George’s College in Harare is a dynamic eighth-man who first arrived in the US at Lindenwood College on a scholarship and could possibly play internationally for America as fellow countryman Takudzwa Ngwenya did.
But, of course, the homeland will always be waiting in the wings if that doesn’t happen.