BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
HIGHLY rated USA-based rugby ace Tinashe Muchena has achieved a major milestone in his fledgling rugby career. Muchena has made history by becoming the first Zimbabwean rugby player to earn a professional contract through Major League Rugby (MLR) Collegiate draft.
The 23-year-old former Zimbabwe youth international was snapped up by the Houston SaberCats during the second edition of the MLR Collegiate Draft, which took place on Friday.
Muchena’s breakthrough move will see him treading in the footsteps of the Rugby World Cup winning Zimbabwe-born Springbok legend Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira, who had a stint in the MLR with Old Glory DC late last year before his retirement from the sport.
The former St George’s College student will also get an opportunity to work under the mentorship of former Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer, who last month took up the position of director of rugby at the club.
Muchena was a second round pick for Houston SaberCats, who are based in Houston, Texas, joining a select group of players from various university rugby teams who were selected by the 13 MLR teams for the upcoming season.
The steely Zimbabwean eighthman recently graduated from Lindenwood University in the US where he was studying information technology, web-design and graphics on a rugby scholarship.
In addition to excelling in his studies at Lindenwood, the gifted Muchena had a successful collegiate rugby career and was recently named the Most Valuable Forward in the Mid-South Conference and in addition to be named in the All-Conference 1st Team.
- Chamisa under fire over US$120K donation
- Mavhunga puts DeMbare into Chibuku quarterfinals
- Pension funds bet on Cabora Bassa oilfields
- Councils defy govt fire tender directive
In the wake of his breakthrough move into the MLR, Zimbabwe Rugby Union could be facing a battle to convince Muchena to choose to play for the Sables in international rugby instead of trying his luck with the USA Eagles.
In the build-up to the MLR Collegiate Draft, Muchena revealed that he harbours ambitions of playing for the USA national rugby union team, popularly known as the Eagles.
He would become the second Zimbabwe-born player to play for the Eagles after speedster Takudzwa Ngwenya, who earned 36 caps with the USA.
“I just want to be the person who can come out here and make an impact immediately and also long term so that I can grow from where I am. In terms of the Eagles it’s going to be a tough competition to get there but listen, I’m up for it. I love a challenge and I’ll be there to bang it out with the boys,” Muchena said before the MLR draft.
Muchena is the son of Old Hararians legend and former Zimbabwe rugby youth international Willard Muchena, who at the age of 51 continues to play competitive club rugby on the domestic scene.
A product of St George’s College, Muchena was a prodigious multi talented young sports star from a young age and during his time at the Harare-based private school he represented the country in rugby, basketball and track and field (high jump).
However, he decided to concentrate in rugby after becoming one of the youngest players to play for the Old Hararians first team and starring for the Young Sables in several regional competitions.
He soon earned a scholarship to study and play rugby at Lindenwold University in Saint Charles, Missouri where he won several team and individual accolades and will be hoping to enjoy similar success at the Houston SaberCats.