BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
SABLES lock forward Kudakwashe “Goofy” Nyakufaringwa is relishing the opportunity to further develop his promising rugby career after completing a move to South African club Raiders RFC.
The 24-year-old Harare-born and Bulawayo-bred rising star left the country for Johannesburg on Friday to complete the move, which was facilitated by former Zimbabwe rugby star Gerald Sibanda.
Nyakufaringwa, who plays for Matabeleland Warriors locally, will be making his third stint on the South African club rugby scene having previously featured for Durban Harlequins and the Cape Town-based Violets Rugby Club.
He believes his move to Raiders is the ideal stepping stone in his career.
“I am looking forward to continue progressing in 2019. I recently got a contract with Raiders Rugby Club, who are based in Johannesburg, South Africa, and that’s where I am headed to on Friday,” Nyakufaringwa told The Sports Hub in an interview last week.
“My goal is to use this move as an opportunity to prepare myself for bigger challenges so that I continue progressing as a man on and off the park. I am looking at upping my game two-fold as I was last year. I have put in a lot of work in the gym, on the park over the last three to four months and I am more than ready to take the leap,” he said.
The big powerful lock enjoyed his breakthrough season in Test rugby last season after earning his first caps for the Sables during their Rugby Africa Gold Cup campaign, which doubled as the qualifiers for this year’s Rugby World Cup in Japan.
Although far from the finished product, he was one of the few bright sparks during the dismal campaign, combining his size and strength with a deftness you would not expect from such a big man.
And with plenty of years still ahead of him, Nyakufaringwa looks a likely starter for the Sables for years to come.
The Matabeleland Warriors lock forward was a favourite of Sables coach Peter de Villiers, who saw him as one of the long-term solutions to the lack of options in the second-row.
“I came into the Sables squad as an underdog — basically very few people knew who I was, but I managed to do it, so it would be great to establish myself more in the side, having learnt a lot of some from the senior players such as Fortune Chipendu, Denford Mutamangira, just to mention a few.”
Nyakufaringwa was born in Harare before relocating to Bulawayo at the age of six, where he was raised by his uncle, the late legendary former Sables and Cheetahs flyhalf Arnold Takawira.
Takawira passed away eight years ago in South Africa aged 40 from injuries sustained in a car crash.
A keen sportsman from a young age, Nyakufaringwa, who attended Rudland Primary School before progressing to Milton High School, credits his late uncle for introducing him to the game.
“After moving from Harare to Bulawayo at the age of six, I stayed with my uncle the late Arnold Takawira and he was a very significant figure in my life. So, growing up, rugby was a must, it was a bit of an everyday activity really. We used to play touch rugby a lot,” he says.
Nyakufaringwa fondly remembers how he would train with his school side Milton in the afternoons before joining the Busters side where his uncle was the coach.
“Having come from such a family background where my uncle was a very significant player who played for the Sables and the Cheetahs, we were brought up in a rugby set-up. I remember I used to train with the Milton High School first team in the afternoon and then train with the Busters side, where my uncle was the head coach.”
The late Takawira’s close friends, Gilbert Nyamutsamba (current Zimbabwe Sevens coach) and former Sables star Victor Olonga, were some of Nyakufaringwa’s role models growing up in Bulawayo.
“There was also my uncle’s best friend Gilbert Nyamutsamba, who I also consider my uncle, so we were always in a rugby environment. Every Sunday we used to go to Victor Olonga’s house, he was also a close friend of my uncle’s and we’d play rugby, basketball and other sports you can think of. It was a very sporting environment,” he said.
Nyakufaringwa believes his sporting upbringing provided him with the solid footing he needed when he embarked on his club rugby career after graduating from high school.
“Rugby was not a choice, it was something I was born into and a way of life, but I was not really serious about it until my uncle passed away. My first experience of local club rugby came with Matabeleland Warriors before I left for South Africa where I played in Durban for the Durban Harlequins. I saw this as a platform to prepare myself as the man I wanted to be in the sport. I played there for a year and after that I left for Cape Town where I played for Violets.”
Nyakufaringwa’s familiarity with South African rugby will come in handy for Zimbabwe when they make their debut in the SuperSport Rugby Challenge in April.
Zimbabwe were recently admitted into the SuperSport Rugby Challenge, joining continental rivals Namibia as the second national team in South Africa’s second-tier domestic competition and Nyakufaringwa believes it’s another step in the right direction for local rugby.
“The admission into the SuperSport Rugby Challenge is a massive opportunity for the players, the coaching staff and everyone involved in Zim rugby. Personally, I’m looking forward to it. it means a new level of competition, exposure and new levels of professionalism. It will be a great opportunity to learn as it gives us more game time to sharpen our skills,” he said.