HISTORY is about to be made. A third Zimbabwean-born will play Test rugby for a major nation in a single calendar year.
David Pocock has been included in the Australia squad for a tour of Europe next month. When he makes his debut as expected, he will follow in the footsteps of props Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira and Brian Mujati and winger Tonderai Chavhanga, who have already played for South Africa this year.
While Chavhanga debuted for the Springboks in 2005, Mtawarira and Mujati made their first Bok appearances this year. In Australia, Gweru-born Pocock is spoken of in the same breath as Mtawarira in South Africa: a future great of the game in the making.
Last week 20-year-old Pocock featured on Australia’s Fox Sport News website, where in an interview the writer Bret Harris, he confessed an undying love for his country of birth.
The article says while at the end of Europe and Hong Kong when the rest of the Wallabies squad will take European vacations or return to the surf and sand of an Australian summer, Pocock will return home to Zimbabwe to “give succour to members of a village in the politically and economically bankrupt country, which he affectionately calls ‘Zim’”, wrote Harris.
“You can’t forget where you come from,” said Pocock. “That shaped who I am. All my childhood memories and stuff. I’m very fond of the place and the people.
“It’s tough to see what’s happening. People have no options. They can’t move to Australia for a better life. They are stuck there.
“People have been saying since 2000 it is going to get better, but almost nine years later it is getting worse. We are looking at helping out a community over there. It’s overwhelming because there are five million people starving. Who do you help? You think if I help 100, what difference does that make? You can’t think like that. You’ve just got to do what you can.”
The Pococks moved to Australia after the family was forced off its 8000-acres farm in the Midlands during the land distribution programme.
“In theory it was very good,” Pocock said. “Give land to people who used to own it so they could farm it.
“Our farm, some police officer lives on it now. It’s not being farmed. It’s such a waste. People are on the brink of starvation and there’s millions of acres not being farmed. It’s such a shame.”
Pocock has the same moral strength as South Africa flanker Luke Watson, a champion of black South African players, so it is not surprising they have formed a friendship through rugby.
Though as white as snow, Watson is viewed in South African rugby circles as a quota system selection because he his father was an anti-apartheid activist and he himself has strong views regarding racial interaction.
This week senior South African players threatened to boycott their end-of-year Europe tour if Watson is included following his support for the removal of the Springbok emblem from the nation side jersey and his critical remarks about Afrikaans-speaking people.
“We meet every time we are in the same city,” Pocock said of Watson. “He’s a great bloke.”
Pocock’s humanitarian endeavour is an expression of his faith. Along with Western Force teammate Luke Holmes, he established a charitable organisation called “Why Generation”, which has distributed soccer balls to an orphanage in Durban and provided sleeping bags for the homeless in Perth.
Pocock has been the regular starter at openside flanker for the Force for the last two seasons, competing against George Smith, Phil Waugh, and New Zealand captain Richie McCaw.
While he is as physically talented as McCaw, Smith and Waugh, Pocock probably lacks their craftiness, which will come with experience.
“You are always up for those games, playing against guys you have been watching since I don’t know how old,” Pocock said.
“You are always trying to test yourself and see how far you can push it. Every time I play McCaw or George Smith, I always pick up one or two little things that they do and you think, ‘yeah, maybe I can do that’.”
Pocock was physically and mentally ready to play Test rugby at the start of this year’s international season in June, but coach Robbie Deans thought he would benefit from playing in the under-20 world championship in Wales.
In what was undoubtedly a pointer to the future, Pocock was named captain of the team.
By Enock Muchinjo