By Mutsa Sibanda
The absorbing, fascinating and intriguing fairy tale of Mbare Academy, Zimbabwe’s biggest rugby story of the last decade, has not ended as was feared but has moved to yet another gripping chapter.
Doyens of the oval ball game, Mbare Academy’s creme de LA creme can now be found on the Hillcrest College team sheet. And boy, what a show.
Anyone who has watched Hillcrest this season can testify to the entertaining game and sweeping formation being exhibited by the Mutare schoolboys that has vastly changed their fortunes.
Chris Mhike, the Hillcrest coach, pays tribute to the new recruits whose contribution was first on display at the Dairibord Schools Rugby Festival when Hillcrest were paired against hosts Prince Edward in the opening game and pundits immediately predicted a massacre.
It was never to be the one-sided high-scoring encounter that was anticipated as Hillcrest showed a huge improvement from previous years and stretched the Prince Edward Tigers all the way eventually losing narrowly 10-19 in a match that saw the hosts rely heavily on kicking points.
”The new boys have added a certain impetus to our line-up by fitting well into our system and contributing immensely to our style of running rugby,” Mhike told Pachikoro.
Prior to the Dairibord festival, Hillcrest had travelled to the Krugersdorp Invitational schools tournament staged during the Easter holidays in South Africa and their revamped team recorded their best-ever performance at the annual tournament, winning three of their five fixtures.
But better was saved for later when Hillcrest returned to compete in the Zimbabwe Schoolboys Rugby League and they have been punching above their weight.
Mhike acknowledges that it was his shrewd strategy to pounce on the Mbare Academy players.
‘We have always been rebuilding our team and this time we decided to consider the Mbare Academy boys for our scholarship programme. We settled on them after realizing their potential.
”The game of rugby favours a certain talent in brawling and because of their background, that is of street games and the jostling that characterizes their day to day lives, Mbare players do not find it difficult to adapt to the rigours and demands of the game,” said Mhike.
Mbare Academy rose to prominence at the turn of the second decade of the millennium when they began registering for schools rugby tournaments and ended up dominating then.
A few years down the line, their head coach had been snapped up by Allan Wilson High taking along with him several players from the high-density team while others found their way to different destinations, including Hillcrest College of Mutare.