MANY rugby-playing nations have North versus South derbies. A classic example was the New Zealand derby in May between Crusaders and Hurricanes in the fin
al of the exhilarating southern hemisphere competition, the Super 14.
On a lower level, Zimbabwe has had its own North/ South rivalry. The rivalry between the two regions stretches over decades when rugby was first played in this country. It exists at the schools, club and senior provincial level. For a sustained period, the southern region was the flag bearer of Zimbabwean rugby. Even now, Matabeleland Rugby Board chairman Alex Goosen believes the southerners are still the “kings of Zimbabwean rugby” after Matabeleland scooped the annual inter-provincial tournament in Bulawayo two months ago.
Tomorrow at Old Hararians Sports Club, the south, a select side from Matabeleland and the Midlands, clash with a northern side in another epic battle which should be the major highlight of senior rugby this season.
. The clash tomorrow is the final trial phase for the Zimbabwe national fifteens side for this year’s Africa Cup. The Sables play Madagascar in their opening match at Hartsfield Stadium in Bulawayo on August 5.
The southern region’s dominance in the years gone by was catapulted by the strength at club level of Old Miltonians Sports Club, who provided the bulk of the country’s national team players. Former Sables skipper Brendon Dawson, flank Jeff Tigere, centres Dave Walters and Ian Noble, and tighthead Naboth Mujaji were some of the brilliant players who made OM’s a feared outfit on the domestic scene. Ever since these players retired, and others went abroad, southern region rugby has played second fiddle to the north.
The south will probably lose the match tomorrow, despite having some of the better players in Zimbabwe in star forward Slater Ndlovu and utility back Wes Mbanje. Northern region have an edge, on a player by player analysis and as a cohesive unit, they are on paper superior. Northern region boasts old war-horses such as national team skipper Max Madziva, winger Emmanuel Munyoro, lock Rob du Rand, loose forwards Basil Dingiswayo and Prayer Chitenderu.
Veteran backs Arnold Takawira and Gilbert Nyamutsamba are the only experienced players in the Southern Region side.