IF Zimbabwe rugby sevens team H-back Kilvan Magunje had not excelled in the game of rugby then there would unquestionably have been one other sporting discipline to find him, athletics.
By Munyaradzi Madzokere
A player blessed with incredible speed and crafty evasive skills, Magunje has managed to spellbind the national team coaches into handing him a regular place in the national sevens rugby team, the Cheetahs.
Barely a year ago, the Gweru Sports Club speed star was living his dream as he proudly donned the Cheetah’s badge at the IRB Rugby Sevens World Cup in Moscow, Russia, although the team had a disappointing campaign.
Standardsport caught up with the rugby star at his base in Gweru where he reminisced over his rugby voyage thus far.
“I was an athlete ever since I was in Grade One until high school. I even went into club athletics briefly and competed in inter-club competitions at provincial level before the love for rugby took over,” said the former Chaplin High School student.
“My major attribute was speed and I was sure my speed would help me excel as a rugby player. All I knew that time about the game was take the ball and run,” he said.
Unlike many sporting individuals, Magunje developed keen interest in rugby at a rather late age of 19, joining Gweru Sports Club but still hoped to one day play for the national team.
As if that was not enough, his career began at a time when rugby despondently ‘died’ in Gweru after the Lion Lager national rugby league collapsed in 2005, and he has three men to thank for helping him carry his dream through the dark ages.
“I will always be grateful to the late Arnold Takawira, current Cheetahs coach Gilbert Nyamutsamba and Zwelonke Mloiswa. They really helped, encouraged and nurtured me to be where I am today.
“When rugby died in Gweru these are the people who took me to Busters in Bulawayo. They transported me, accommodated me and made sure I kept on developing as a player and here I am,” he said.
Magunje regularly travelled to Bulawayo from Gweru for the much needed game time and later turned out for Old Miltonians, before returning to Gweru Sports Club when the national league was revived in 2009.
His initial Cheetah’s recognition came when he was still a novice in the sport in 2005. He travelled to South Africa with the team but did not impress the coaches there and had to wait five more years for the next call up.
“I was initially tried in the Sevens national team in 2005 and I failed to impress. I was then called back into the Sevens squad for a tournament in Middleburg, in 2010 and since then I have been a regular in the team,” Magunje said.
The man who started off his career as a winger earned his first IRB series cap at the IRB Sevens World Series in Scotland in 2012 when he replaced Jacques Leitao who failed to travel due to family commitments.
While his participation in the Sevens World Cup last year was the highest moment of his career, Magunje reckons his best ever performance came in the IRB Sevens core circuit qualifiers in Hong Kong last year.
“We were trying to qualify to become a core member in World Sevens rugby in Hong Kong last year and I really played my level best and also the team gelled together, it was amazing,” reflected the 29- year-old UFI church member.
Locally Magunje admires three top players in Leitao, Daniel Hondo and Gardner Nechironga.
“I love the work rate of Leitao, the brains of Hondo and the cunningness of Nechironga. These players stand out for me and inspire me,” he said.
Magunje was born in Wedza to a headmaster father and a nurse mother with other two family members being young sisters, Dorcas and Sharon.
He believes everyone in his family is gifted in athletics but he is the only one who decided to take sport to a professional level.
Magunje, who is currently nursing a knee injury is also employed by the Ministry of Public Works as a fitter machinist and has no regrets in abandoning athletics for rugby as he is now enjoying the benefit his decision.