England-based national Under 20 flanker Takudzwa Mandiwanza will be one of the key players in the national team that is set to take part at the Junior World Rugby Trophy next year in Georgia.
Mandiwanza will be making his second consecutive appearance at the world junior rugby showcase after taking part at the same tournament in Russia early this year.
The former Old Hararians 19 year-old flanker, who is also at home at eight-man, has been gradually establishing himself in the first team at Hartpury College in the UK.
Hartpury College is an associate faculty of the University of the West of England situated in the village of Hartpury, Gloucestershire.
In an interview with NewsDay from his base in the UK, Mandiwanza said he was enjoying his rugby after successfully graduating from the College’s third and second string sides to the first team in a short space of time.
“The team I’m playing for competes against other universities and colleges in the UK in a very competitive league but at the moment we are on a Christmas break.
“I’m now a regular in the first team but it has not been easy since I had to work hard to make it from the third and second string sides into the first team.
“The first team coach saw me play at one of the training sessions and was impressed and the next thing I was training with the first team and now I’m featuring in the starting line-up week-in week out,” said Mandiwanza.
Mandiwanza played for Old Hararians during the first half of last season before leaving for the UK, where besides playing rugby he is also studying for a degree in Sports Business Management.
Hartpury College was also home to former Zimbabwe Under 20 captain Graeme Lawler who was the skipper at the last JRWCT in Russia early this year.
It has a very solid reputation among British Universities and Colleges Championship as it houses the academy for Guinness Premiership side Gloucester.
While rubbing shoulders with some of the best players in England should be special, the former Peterhouse College student believes representing his country at the highest level cannot be equalled.
He said defending the African title was an equally special moment in his young rugby career and said he was confident the team would leave a lasting impression in Georgia.
“The win over Namibia in the final in Ivory Coast was a very special moment for me and the whole team.
Looking ahead of the World Cup I think we can do much better this time around. We now know what it takes to perform at such a high level and it’s now just a matter of maintaining the focus,” said Mandiwanza.
In a recent interview the Under 20 coach Brighton Chivandire, who should be given credit for nurturing youngsters like Mandiwanza said preparations would be from January 3-7.