Zimbabwean flavour at the Rugby World Cup

By Kisset Chirengende

Japan hosted the 9th edition of the Rugby World Cup. The opening match of the tournament took place at Tokyo Stadium in Chōfu, Tokyo, and the final match at International Stadium Yokohama. The 2019 edition exceeded expectations and that’s thanks to Japan’s rugby team the Cherry Blossoms who had a fantastic run on the field of play. They made history by qualifying for the playoffs for the first time ever. Japan turned the tournament upside down by topping a pool with two tier 1 sides, Ireland and Scotland; handing Ireland a shock defeat earlier in the tournament and dumping Scotland out of the World Cup in the pool stages for the first
time ever in their history, astonishing! They bowed out in the quarter finals. Stadiums enjoyed capacity crowds with even the ‘smaller’ clashes seeing good attendances. This speaks of the growing rugby culture in a country with the fourth largest population of rugby union players i the world, 125,000 Japanese rugby players and 3,631 official rugby clubs. This coupled with the amazing culture of the Japanese made this World Cup a truly remarkable one.

Zimbabwe was obviously not at the World Cup, but we had some fine ambassadors representing us. Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira, David Pocock, Sebastian Negri and to some extent, Kotaro Matsushima. Although Matsushima, the flying Japanese winger has a Zimbabwean parent, Zimbabwe never contributed to his rugby development unlike the other three.

Tendai Mtawarira

Beast Mtawarira is probably the most decorated of the quartet. Schooled at Churchill Boys and Peterhouse, the powerful front-ranker has amassed a highly impressive 115 international appearances for his adopted country. He’s been a one club man for 12 years with his beloved Sharks, a rare thing these days. Other accomplishments include being the most capped prop, most capped black rugby player and the most capped South African Super Rugby player of all time. He continues to defy his age and demonstrate incredible longevity and professionalism by performing at world class level still.

David Pocock

David Pocock is a generational talent! Considered the world’s premier jackler/fetcher/poacher and openside flanker, the Gweru lad has been plagued by serious knee injuries in the past. Despite this, he’s been able to string together an impressive international and club career. He’s played with the Western Force and Brumbies in Super Rugby, the Australian Wallabies internationally and will now take up a contract with Panasonic Wild Knights in the Japanese Top League when the global showpiece concludes. He announced his retirement from test rugby after The World Cup. David who did his primary schooling at Midlands Christian College in
Gweru, was actually born in South Africa but considers himself a Zimbabwean with all his family being from Zimbabwe. He continues to do tremendous philanthropic work in Zimbabwe especially in the Matabeleland region.

Sebastian Negri

Italian international back row, Sebastian Negri was born in Marondera and schooled at the local Springvale House before moving to Clifton and Hilton College in KZN South Africa. After school, he joined the Western Province Academy, and played for them in the 2013 Under-19 Provincial Championship, before moving to England to study Sports Business Management at Hartpury College. He represented Italy Under-20 in 2013 and 2014 and progressed to the Emerging Italy team in 2015. On 18 June 2016, Negri made his debut for the Italian national team in a victory over the United States in San Jose. He plays for Benetton in the Pro 14 league and has
amassed over 20 international caps for the Azzurri. The big loose forward has slowly established himself as a reliable ball carrier.

Originally published in the 114th issue of Ndeipi Magazine

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