By Mutsa Sibanda
Wishes have turned into plans for the Zimbabwe Rugby Union and we can now brace for all-year round rugby action in Zimbabwe schools starting in 2018.
Nyararai Sibanda, the ZRU president, is enchanted by the level of rugby development in South Africa and believes it arises from their curriculum which entails that the game is played in virtually all months of the year.
“In South African schools they play rugby continually from January until December. And during school holidays they stage tournaments and festivals that is why South Africa is now a world power in rugby,” Sibanda said in an interview with Pachikoro.
“Our system of playing rugby only between May and August can never produce rugby champions as we will always lack match fitness and competitive practice. We miss out on competitions staged in October for instance because our players will be involved in other disciplines.”
The ZRU supremo said previous executives had only expressed their wish for rugby in Zimbabwe schools to be played longer than is the situation now but nothing had been done to realize this. But there were now concrete plans to ensure the change-over takes place as early as next year.
“We are in discussions with the Sport and Recreation Commission to see if they can ask the minister of sport to negotiate with the ministry of education to have rugby introduced among the first term sporting activities and also to be incorporated in the third term extra-curriculum schedule.”
There could be light in the tunnel for ZRU’s plans since rugby will this year make its grand entry at the National Youth Games for the first time since inception of the games more than 10 years ago.
The games, a brainchild of the SRC, are played at provincial level and the inclusion of rugby on the programme is seen as a way of revitalizing the sport’s provincial structures that had all but collapsed in recent years.
It means schools in provinces like Matabeland South, Mashonaland Central and Masvingo who have never had a team competing in the top-flight Inter-City league could now start their baby steps towards constituting a fully-fledged rugby club.
All provinces must field an Under-18 team in every discipline played at the games which this year will be hosted in August by Matabeleland North in the towns of Hwange, Victoria Falls and Lupane.
Dr Agrippah Sora, whose school Prince Edward hosts the annual Dairibord Schools Rugby Festival, has in the past called on the ZRU to make efforts to spread the game across the country. The Dairibord Schools Rugby festival caters for an average 150 schools but he expressed concern that some schools only play their rugby during the festival with no fixtures before or after the festival.
“We can start with centres of excellence in every province where promising players in each province come together regularly for practice and then gradually establish such centres in every town,” said Dr Sora.