BY FORTUNE MBELE
FORMER Sables player Gerald Sibanda has scored another big one as his Athletes Sphere Management (ASM) has agreed with South Africa’s Golden Lions Rugby Union (GRLU) for the establishment of an academy in Zimbabwe.
Sibanda engineered the establishment of the Betis Football Academy Zimbabwe in partnership with Spanish football outfit Real Betis.
The academy was launched last year, but its activities have been curtailed by the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns.
GRLU announced the development of the rugby academy on their official website yesterday.
“The Golden Lions Rugby Union announced that it had entered into a strategic agreement with Athletes Sphere Management to form a Lions Rugby Academy in Zimbabwe as part of its grassroots development programmes of Golden Lions Rugby Union. It is envisaged that the academy will sufficiently upskill, provide experience, and create development pathways, for players, coaches and administrators which will enable them to transition seamlessly to professional and international level,” the statement read.
Academy manager Pieter Visser said: “The formation of this academy will provide numerous training and education opportunities not only for players, but will provide exposure for referees, and coaches with the director of rugby being an appointee of GLRU.”
Sibanda is the president and chief executive officer of ASM, a Zimbabwe-based sports management company, and says he is excited about the impending rugby academy.
“I am happy and looking forward to seeing the development of Zimbabwe Rugby through this landmark association with one of the biggest Rugby Unions in World Rugby, the GRLU. South Africa and the Springboks are the current world champions, and it’s a great honour to have the GRLU commit to empowering Zimbabwe as a nation and growing the game of rugby in this region,” Sibanda said.
He added: “It is our core value and mandate in Athletes Sphere, to bring world-class community opportunities to our beautiful Zimbabwe. I look forward to seeing this Association bring more success to the great relations between Zimbabwe and South Africa.”
Zimbabwe Rugby Union (ZRU) president Aaron Jani also added his voice towards the envisaged academy.
“ZRU welcomes the Association between GRLU and Zimbabwe Sports Agency, Athletes Sphere Management. This partnership augments well with our mix of rugby development and high performance. It strengthens our relationship with South African Rugby and brings various commercial opportunities to market brand Zimbabwe,” Jani said.
“We are blessed with talent, and finding a new home for our players in a professional environment will allow growth and maturity in our game. Athletes Sphere has proven beyond any doubt what they are capable of achieving in other sports, and we look forward to working with them to get the best for our players.”
Lions Rugby Company chief executive officer Rudolf Straeuli said Zimbabwe has produced a number of rugby luminaries.
“Zimbabwe continues to produce untapped talent and have in the past produced great international players such as Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira and David Pocock while Brian Mujati and Tonderai Chavhanga were at one time players and part of the Lions family,” Streuli said.
GLRU president Neville Jardine also lauded ASM.
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