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Victor Olonga (extreme right) with Cornish Pirates teammates in the 90s.


‘He had speed, skills and good vision’: World Hall of Famer Tsimba honours fellow countryman Olonga



VICTOR Olonga shuns the limelight these days, so frustrating for a guy with a knack for telling a good story, if he is in the mood.


Nowadays he lives a quiet life back home in Bulawayo, and prefers not to talk about his rugby days anymore.

But it does not stop others from talking about him. The man, the myth and the legend.

This week, World Rugby Hall of Fame inductee Kennedy Tsimba was asked by to compile his fantasy “Perfect XV” of players he played with and against. The history-making former Zimbabwe captain included fellow countryman Olonga in a team that has nine World Cup winners.

Conrad Smith, Bryan Habana, Dan Carter, Fourie du Preez, Juan Smith, Victor Matfield and Bakkies Botha – who made the great Tsimba’s line-up – all won the World Cup as players for the All Blacks and the Springboks.

Then Rassie Erasmus, Tsimba’s former Cheetahs teammate, who coached the Boks to their last World Cup glory in 2019, in the side as eighth-man.

On that illustrious list, Tsimba –Zimbabwe’s first black captain – was bold enough to include a former teammate from the homeland, whose ultimate claim to fame is being a club legend at lowly English club Cornish Pirates.

No Englishmen, no Aussies, no Frenchmen, no Welshmen, no Irishmen. But a modest Zimbabwean who refuses to take credit for his amazing athletic talents.

“He (Olonga) was a great student of the game,” Tsimba told The NewsHawks this week.

“His fundamentals for the game were very sound. He had speed, skills and good vision. He leads a new generation of Zimbabwean players that went to the first Rugby World Cup Sevens in 1997.”

Tsimba selected Olonga on the right wing, a position that the former Sables livewire felt was stereotyping as a black player. Zimbabwe used him mostly at fullback, but he preferred fly-half, as he told me in a previous interview.

But Tsimba, a legendary fly-half himself and considered the world’s best number 10 in his prime, justified his choice of selection for his good old friend and ex-teammate.

“Yes, he was a very versatile player and could fill a number of positions,” remarked Tsimba.

“I put him on the win as the centres would be able to set him up to score plenty of tries with his speed and skills.”

Both Zimbabwe rugby captains, Ken and Vic, have prominent sporty brothers who recorded milestones in their chosen sporting codes.

The late Richard Tsimba, Kennedy’s older brother, who featured for Zimbabwe in the 1987 and 1991 World Cup finals, was the first black person to play international rugby for the country. Similarly, cricketer Henry Olonga, Victor’s young brother, was Zimbabwe’s first black national team player in his sport.


15 – Cecil Afrika (South Africa) 14 – Victor Olonga – Zimbabwe 13 – Conrad Smith (New Zealand) 12 – Etienne Botha (South Africa) 11 – Bryan Habana (South Africa) 10 – Dan Carter (New Zealand) 9 – Fourie du Preez (South Africa) 8 – Rassie Erasmus (South Africa) 7 – Juan Smith (South Africa) 6 – Andre Venter (South Africa) 5 – Victor Matfield (South Africa) 4 – Bakkies Botha (South Africa) 3 – Dougie Heymans (South Africa) 2 Hanyani Shimange (South Africa) 1 – Gurthro Steenkamp (South Africa).

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