A SIZEABLE crowd in an apparent party mood follows proceedings keenly as the two sets of players on the field battle for supremacy with sheer determination.
There is no prize though for guessing that there is no monetary reward at stake for b
oth Harare Sports Club 2 and Mashonaland Country Districts 2. Nonetheless some deft backline exchanges take place here and there with real hard tackles flying to stop the movements.
The incentive for both players and fans, it looks, is the fulfilment from the competition, pure passion, friendship, the heroes that are created and a good afternoon out at the rugby match.
This is the tale of Zimbabwean club rugby. Years of steady decline in standards on both the domestic and international scenes has not completely killed the obsession for the game in the Zimbabwe rugby committee.
In fact, club rugby in Zimbabwe still attracts more spectators at the present moment than domestic cricket three years ago.
Zimbabwean domestic rugby has remarkably soldiered on through the difficult times. The players still troop to the clubs, and a good number from the previously undermined high-density areas. The young players from these areas form the bulk of the reserve sides at traditional clubs like Old Hararians and Harare Sports Clubs.
Players and club officials turn out for matches proudly dressed in team formal wear and other club regalia. There is a sense of defiance which seems to say “you can try to be professional even in financial penury”.
For a first in Zimbabwean rugby, MCD at the beginning of the Northern Rugby League waved the cash card when they paid money to get national forwards Fortune Chipendo and Jacques Leitao from Mabvuku and Harare Sports Club respectively.
The two young players joined at the club a generation of veterans such as club chairman Boetie O’Neil and coach Nic Gey van Pittus, who still play in the reserves well into their 40s.
A number of the other “veterans” are also involved in some capacity.
“Everyone who is involved has rugby at heart,” said Old Hararians rugby chairman, Bongai Zamchiya, himself a second-team player.
“They have been there during the good and difficult times. It’s family. The administrators, coaches referees and supporters all grew up watching and playing the game, and we are just doing our bit to make sure that rugby continues. It helps to have people who are true supporters around.
“You still have guys who played ten years ago still playing in the second teams with the youngsters. So the youngsters rub shoulders with these guys and they feel like they are part of the family. It takes dedication. We are not doing it for the money. Actually we spend our money to play rugby.”
This week’s Northern League fixtures:
Old Hararians 1 v Old Hararians 2 (OH), Harare Sports Club 1 v Harare Sports Club 2 (HSC), MCD 1 v MCD 2 (Old Georgians), Alexandra v Marondera (Alex), Police v Mabvuku (TBA).