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Rugby fiesta in town


Enock Muchinjo

GUARD has been taken, try lines marked.


The 2006 Cottco Schools Rugby Festival bursts into life at the Prince Edward School grounds from Monda

y up to Saturday.


Zimbabwean fifteens rugby at senior level is still to emerge out of the woods despite the commendable efforts of the Northern Rugby League, running independently from the Zimbabwe Rugby Union (ZRU).


Well, here is one fête that has withstood the test of time on the Zimbabwean sporting calendar. That the festival, regarded as one of the best schools rugby tournaments in the southern hemisphere, if not on the planet, continue to grow and hog the international limelight in a tough economic environment, is reason enough to celebrate.


Schools are coming from previously overlooked areas such as Mutoko and Seke where rugby is slowly catching on. Two foreign sides, the Botswana and Zambia Schools Select sides are visiting and will each play two local schools before squaring-up against each other on Thursday.


A total of 14 international referees, including two International Rugby Board-sanctioned South Africans, will officiate at the tournament.


The tournament is organised on a developmental format and there is no overall winner at the end of it.


Yet still, the highlight at the Cottco event will once again be the intense rivalry between the traditional top sides.


The festival presents a wonderful opportunity for the big guns to showcase their talents in the presence of a large turnout that includes girls’ teams.


However, and sadly so, the national Under-21 test pitting Zimbabwe and a visiting team which used to be a fixture at the tournament, will be missing from the programme for the second year running.


This part of the festival, as tournament director Patrick Gumunyu rightly said at a press briefing on Tuesday, is the baby of the ZRU.


The Under-21 side has been inactive for close to two years, a situation lamented by the team’s coach, Sykes Sibanda.


“We are tired of talking,” he said. “There is got to be continuity from Under-19 to Under-21 and even Under-23,” Sibanda said. “We have the case of (Willis) Magasa and ‘Too Bad’ (Tangai Nemadire) who went from Under 19 into the national side. That’s no good.”


Sibanda added: “There is plenty of talent at this level but if it’s not tapped quickly, guys will give up. We will lose out. They will just cross the border to South Africa.”

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