AS a player, Tangai Nemadire’s exploits were not just appreciated in the confinements of Zimbabwe rugby circles, but around the world as he featured for a strong Cheetahs side which confounded expectations to consistently perform remarkably well on the international circuit.
BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
Popularly known as “Too Bad,” Nemadire — a livewire XVs winger or fullback — who was converted to scrumhalf in Sevens, scored many spectacular tries during his career, using his lightning pace and deft ball skills to leave markers clutching air.
The height of Nemadire’s Zimbabwe Sevens career was representing the country at two World Cups in Dubai (2009) — where they brought home the Bowl Trophy after beating Ireland 17-14 in the final — and Russia four years ago.
Now aged 31, Nemadire could still have been part of the side which is aiming to qualify for their third successive World Cup in the USA next year, but injuries and a desire to give an opportunity to the younger generation led to a premature end to his playing career.
Instead, the former Harare Sports Club and Old Hararians utility back has turned to coaching.
First, he was made coach of Zimbabwe’s second string Sevens side, the Goshawks during the inaugural Kwesé Sports Victoria Falls Sevens in March, leading the young side to the Plate final, where they narrowly lost 21-14 to a strong Zambian side.
Nemadire will serve as one of Cheetahs’ head coach Gilbert Nyamutsamba’s assistants in the upcoming World Cup qualifiers in Uganda, a job he says allows him, the opportunity to give back to the sport which made him into the man he is today.
“After retiring from the sport, my hope now is to pass on the knowledge I gained during my playing career to the current players,” Nemadire told Sports World in an interview last week.
“I started playing for the Cheetahs when I was in lower six in 2003 and it was a remarkable journey with the team until 2015 when I stopped playing Sevens. Everytime that I wore that Zimbabwe Sevens jersey, it was always with pride and I’m happy that I was able to play at two World Cups in Dubai and Russia, that was a great experience for me and honour.”
“I remember during our days, we competed toe to toe against some of the big teams on the international circuit and we hope we will be able to return to that level again.
“The goal is to win the Africa Cup and qualify for the World Cup in the USA. At the moment, we are in the process of trying to come up with a strong squad that can take us back where we were,” he said.
“We have got quite a balanced pool of players at the moment. We have the young guys who are coming up and a few experienced players as well so it’s just a matter of trying to strike the right balance so that they can gel as a unit.
“I believe it’s a good crop of players.”
Nemadire made his breakthrough into the national Sevens side in 2003, aged 17 and still a lower six student at Churchill High School, making him the youngest player to play national representative rugby in years.
It was a great honour and source of enormous pride for a player, who had only taken up rugby four years earlier in his first year at high school at Marondera High School.
“I started playing rugby in 1999 when I was in form 1 at Marondera High School, because I’d attend Queensdale Primary School which didn’t have rugby at the time. Back then I was a bit of a multi-talented sportsman because I was really good in athletics and also played soccer and cricket,” Nemadire recalled.
“Our sports director, then Guy Ngwarati [now the Lomagundi College sports director] realised the potential I had to become a rugby player because of my speed. I did not really like the sport that much at the time but he was very persistent and he would literally drag me to the rugby field. He [Ngwarati and Chrispen Mhike (now Hilcrest College sports director] were my two mentors when I started playing rugby.”
While Nemadire learnt the sport at Marondera High School, it was at Churchill — a conveyor belt of top Zimbabwe sports stars — where his rugby blossomed, being part of the Bulldogs first XV that beat the seemingly invincible Falcon College and Peterhouse in 2004.
“Willis Magasa, who I had grown up, with convinced me to go to Churchill; he was the deputy headboy there at that time. He knew that I had the talent in rugby, soccer and cricket so that’s how I ended up going there.”
The ultimate goal then for Nemadire was representing Zimbabwe at the IRB Under 19 World Cup in Durban in 2005, where he played alongside two former school teammates Willis Magasa and Gerald Sibanda.
Nemadire went into the World Cup with his profile rising as rapidly as his deceptive runs down the wing or from fullback and he didn’t disappoint as his performances quickly caught the eye of South African clubs.
He joined the Johannesburg Wanderers club, one of the clubs that contribute to the Vodacom Super Rugby franchise, the Lions before moving to the East London side Border Bulldogs in 2007.
“My first club in South Africa was Wanderers in South Africa and it created a number of opportunities for me because that is where I had my first agent, who then facilitated my move to Border Bulldogs. Some of my fond memories while at Border Bulldogs was playing in the Currie Cup First Division,” he said.
Nemadire would briefly return to Johannesburg to join Union Bulldogs Rugby Club before making what he describes as the biggest move of his club career after joining the Cape Town-based SK Walmers Rugby Club, who ply their trade in the Western Province Super A League.
Following some solid performances for SK Walmers, he was rewarded with a call-up to Western Province’s squad.
“Having already been capped for Zimbabwe, it was difficult for me to break into the Western Province side but I did benefit a lot considering they played in the premier Currie Cup section,” he says.
“Just being part of the squad and part of match preparations and watching them play top provinces week after week made me mature as a player.”
His biggest regret, however, is that during his playing time, the Cheetahs were not able to become a core member on the HSBC Sevens World Series after coming agonisingly close on a number of occasions.
“It’s sad that we were not able to secure core status on the World Circuit because I felt we should have achieved if you consider the number of talented players that we had. In fact, we won the Hong Kong qualifying tournament twice but sadly, the qualifying criteria they were using was different from the current one.”
He added: “We would then be required to play against the bottom three teams from the circuit, which put us at a disadvantage because the teams we would have played would have spent the entire season on the circuit playing about 10 tournaments compared to us. Then we were only invited for the Dubai Sevens and the Port Elizabeth leg of the series in South Africa [later moved to Cape Town].”
After suffering numerous near misses in his bid to help Zimbabwe realise their dream of becoming a Sevens World Series core member as a player, Nemadire will be hoping that he can finally make a difference, this time as a member of the coaching department.