Utility back Sibanda — a Zimbabwe XVs and Sevens international — debuted at right wing for Province, one of South Africa’s leading unions, in a pre-season friendly against SWD Eagles last weekend in preparation for the upcoming 2010 Vodacom Cup season.
He came off the bench on the right wing, impressing throughout with good runs and big tackles.
The 25-year-old Sibanda’s journey to the top of SA rugby is reminiscent of his countryman Tonderai Chavhanga, the former Springbok flyer who apparently is his role model.
Chavhanga cut his teeth at Western Province before graduating into the union’s Super 14 franchise, Stormers.
The Vodacom Cup is the third-tier competition in South Africa after the Super 14 and the Currie Cup.
With news that prolific winger Wes Mbanje might leave the Durban-based union Falcons and head back to the Jo’burg club scene, it effectively means Sibanda will be the only Zimbabwe-qualifying player in South Africa’s first-class rugby.
Talented loose forward Tendayi Chikukwa is likely to land a Blue Bulls senior contract this season to play in both the Vodacom and Currie Cups, but the Harare-born — but Pretoria Boys High-educated eighthman — has already played for South Africa Under 21 and should see himself as a future Springbok.
An openly delighted Sibanda spoke to IndependentSport from Cape Town this week.
“I guess after making my provincial debut the dream is still alive, that number 14 jersey for WP!” he said. “All I gotta do now is work harder, keep playing well and impress the coaches.”
With Province’s big guns playing in the first week of the Super 14 for Stormers, Sibanda was debuting in a team that still contained seasoned players like fullback Fabian Juries, flyhalf Willem De Waal, and centres Frikkie Welsh and Dylan Des Fountain.
Super Rugby hopes in future then, Gerry?
“I would not say no, or I’m not ready. I bulked up big time in the off-season and my size can stand the heat against the best. Although it still remains a dream to don the number 14 jersey for WP and Stormers, for now I take each moment as it comes, train harder and focus on the Vodacom Cup.”
Bok Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira of Sharks and new Lions recruit, Chavhanga, are the only Zimbabwean-born players in the Super 14.
Former Churchill High and Zimbabwe Under 19 star Sibanda started off his career in South Africa playing club rugby in Johannesburg. He had unsuccessful trials with Sharks, and later was included in the Falcons Currie Cup squad without getting game time.
He then joined the SK Walmers club in Cape Town, catching the eyes of the provincial selectors.
While one or two of Zimbabwe’s key players will benefit from playing first-class rugby down south, many people feel the Zimbabwe Rugby Union should apply to enter a side in the Vodacom Cup, or even Currie Cup. This season, Namibia and Argentina will make their Vodacom Cup debuts.