BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
GIFTED backliner Brendon Mandivenga has been entrusted with the captaincy of the Zimbabwe Rugby Academy side ahead of their maiden appearance in the SuperSport Rugby Challenge in South Africa at the weekend.
The 24-year-old versatile player, who is equally at home at fly-half, fullback and centre, will lead the Zimbabwe development side in the South African competition, which includes 14 South African rugby provincial teams as well as neighbours Namibia.
Speaking from the team’s training camp in Cape Town, Mandivenga said the Zimbabwe Academy side was relishing the opportunity to showcase their skills against some of the top provisional sides in South Africa.
“It is a massive honour for us to be playing in this competition. It is a great opportunity for us to showcase what Zimbabwe rugby is all about and we have an opportunity to put Zimbabwe back on the map. As a team, we will make sure we will grab it with both hands and give it our everything,” he said.
“We are not really looking at these opponents as our superiors. Rather, we are looking at each team as the same as us. It’s a process as we are trying to build for the next World Cup and it all starts in this competition. We are laying out our foundation for the next four years as our goal and we will take on each team as they come.”
Mandivenga, who attended Peterhouse College in Marondera, made his international debut for Zimbabwe during last year’s June Rugby Africa Gold Cup opener against Morocco.
The former Leicester Tigers Academy and Loughborough University player went on to become a key member of the Sables squad during the continental competition, which doubled as the qualifiers for the Rugby World Cup in Japan.
Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe Rugby Academy has partnered with South African sports brands and nutrition supplier, Bodworths Brands.
The deal will see team players receiving carefully selected set of different brands of sports nutrition supplements to achieve the mammoth task of competing in this year’s SuperSport Rugby Challenge.
Brad Bodsworth, the owner of Bodsworth Brands, said his ardent love for sport and the passion displayed by the Zimbabwe Rugby Academy makes it worth supporting the team.
“I am an avid sports lover and rugby players with passion, such as the underdogs, have always been something that I have been a firm supporter of. When it comes to Zimbabwe Rugby Academy, these guys are literally laying it all on the line for their passion, the love they have for their rugby and their country,” he said.
“There is no other added incentive for them other than the passion that they are playing the sport and that is why I am a firm supporter.”
In addition to the nutrition sponsor, the team is working with strength and conditioning expert Nico van Der Walt at Crossfit False Bay to condition themselves for the SuperSport Rugby Challenge.
The Zimbabwe Rugby Academy open their SuperSport Rugby Challenge campaign with a date against Border Bulldogs in East London on
Zimbabwe Rugby Academy Squad
Aiden Burnett, Brandon Sweet, Wade Petzer, Biselele Tshamala, Brendon Mandivenga, Brian Nyaude, Cleopas Kundiona, Dunstin Andrews, Ernest Mudzengerere, George Sawezy, Godfrey Muzanarwo, Godwin Mangenje, Hilton Mudariki, Jan Ferreira, Jeremiah Jaravaza, Jordon Coombes, Keith Murray, Kudakwashe Chiwanza, Kudakwashe Nyakufaringwa, Kuzi Kazembe, Kudzai Mashawi, Matthew McNab, Michael Botha, Neil Mawere, Njabulo Ndlovu, Riaan O’Niell, Royal Mwale, Sanele Sibanda, Shingirai Katsvere, Tabonga Ngonyamo, Takudzwa Chieza, Takudzwa Kumadiro, Tatendaishe Mujawo, Tyron Fagan, Tinashe Chaza, Blithe Mavesere
Team management: Brendan Dawson (head coach), Tonderai Chavhanga (assistant coach), Jason Maritz (team manager), Simbarashe Dangah (assistant team manager)
April 28: Border Bulldogs v Zimbabwe Academy (East London)
May 4: Zimbabwe Academy v Sharks (False Bay Rugby club, Cape Town)
May 14: SWD Eagles v Zimbabwe Academy (Mossel Bay)
May 18: Western Province v Zimbabwe Academy (TBC, Cape Town)
May 25: Zimbabwe Academy v Cheetahs (False Bay Rugby Club, Cape Town)
June 1: Boland v Zimbabwe Academy (TBC, Wellington)
June 8: Zimbabwe v Eastern Province (False Bay Rugby Club, Cape Town)