HomeSportRugby stars open up about Christian faith

Rugby stars open up about Christian faith

ZIMBABWE-born former Springbok winger Tonderai Chavhanga and former New Zealand star Rodney So’oialo, who were in the Zambezi Steelers side that took part in the Old Mutual Legends Cup exhibition match against the Vodacom Bulls last weekend, are devout Christians.

BY MUNYARADZI MADZOKERE

The two took time off their Old Mutual Legends Cup schedule to be guests at New Life Covenant Church in Harare where they shared on their faith as well as the careers in an event dubbed “Tough Christians”.

Chavhanga, born in Zimuto, Masvingo, is one of Zimbabwe’s finest rugby exports.He earned four Test caps for the Springboks, scoring 30 points in the process before injury setbacks cut short his international career.

The former Prince Edward School student moved to Bloemfontein South Africa, at the turn of the century and played for Free State Cheetahs, Stormers, Western Province and Golden Lions, among others.

His career includes appearances for the South Africa Under-21s, the Springboks and the Emerging Springboks.

“I never thought I was the most talented kid in rugby growing, but it was just God who opened up opportunities for me. I am very happy with the way things have turned out for me and I am really grateful that as a young Zimbabwean boy, God opened doors for me to play for the Springboks,” Chavhanga told the gathering made up predominantly of young people.

Chavhanga (34) and So’oialo (38) took turns to share their experiences as Christians in a very physical sport where a lot of superstitions sometimes reign supreme.

“When I was playing a lot of my friends and teammates knew I was a Christian and some would sometimes come to me for prayers as well as ask questions about God,” Chavhanga said.

“I hung a lot around people who believe the same things I believed in. Not to say I did not mix with non-believers, but I knew I was prone to certain things so I didn’t want to expose myself. Basically, I made friends with people who encouraged me to pray.

“In the sporting world, I feel God does wonders because the number of Christian athletes continues to increase especially in South Africa. I remember when we toured countries like New Zealand, Australia and England, we would sometimes make sure to find a church as a group or we would get a pastor to come give us the word.

“It’s incredible ministering through sport. It doesn’t matter the area of expertise because wherever God has placed you that’s where your mandate to minister is,” he said.

So’oialo, who is already a grandfather at 38 and has been a Christian since he was young, said he was not at any point ashamed of his faith.

So’oialo was capped 62 times for the New Zealand All Blacks as a loose forward.

“I don’t have a challenge in sharing my faith because I am not ashamed about being a Christian. I just do not believe in forcing my faith on others or pushing people to go to church.

“I know people who never knew Jesus and never believed in anything but science. On their death bed they start looking for a higher power. They start to want to pray to someone they don’t know and I believe that’s Jesus working,” So’oialo said.

“Christianity has helped me to be a reasonable father and a coach. One thing I have learnt is it’s profitable to have a relationship with Jesus before career and it’s something that I always encourage everyone especially the kids that I coach,” he said.

“I was given a bursary to study at first and had an opportunity to go to school and equip myself for life after rugby, but I am fortunate things went well career-wise”.
Chavhanga says the one area he struggled a bit at the beginning was his marriage.

“My family does not have really good marriages and unfortunately, for my wife, I made it really difficult for her at first because I lacked that many good role models. But because of church, I can say that our nine years of marriages have been amazing,” he said.

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