BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
THERE were murmurs of disapproval from some quarters when former Springbok coach Peter de Villiers named Shingirai Katsvere as his starting fullback in his first match as Zimbabwe national rugby team coach against Morocco last year.
Yet any lingering doubts about the then young rising star’s abilities were soon forgotten after 80 minutes when he ran in two majestic tries on his debut as the Sables drew 23-all with Morocco in their opening Rugby Africa Gold Cup match at Harare Sports Club.
Katsvere, who had just turned 20 a month earlier, vividly recalls how he had initially doubted his own abilities after being thrown in the deep end against Morocco last year.
“Scoring two tries against Morocco on my debut was such a humbling moment for me,” the young star told The Sports Hub in an interview last week.
“I didn’t think I would be able to make such an instant impact on my debut and I would really want to thank my coaches who supported and pushed me, they brought out the best in me. Obviously not everyone believed that I could hold my own as the country’s fullback considering my age at the time, but my coaches pushed me and their motivation and support made me do my best,” he said.
Katsvere’s entry into the Test rugby arena last year epitomises his rapid rise from humble beginnings in his career thus after his impressive in Mbare to become one of the country’s brightest rugby prospects.
Quiet and unassuming in nature, he always prefers to let his prodigious talents do the talking when he steps onto the field of play.
Blessed with natural speed, flair, and an eye for the gap, Katsvere is the one player in the Sables backline who has the ability to change the course of a match in the blink of an eye.
The versatile backliner, who is equally at home either at fullback or in the centre position, is also superb in reading opposition teams’ moves, giving him time to pounce at the perfect moment to intercept the ball and usually run in a try unchallenged.
Since making his senior debut last year, Katsvere, who plays for Old Georgians RFC locally, has gone on to establish himself as a prominent player for both the Sables and the Zimbabwe Sevens rugby team, the Cheetahs.
“Playing for both the Sables and the Cheetahs has been such an honour. Just representing my country is one of the greatest things I’ve done in my life, I am always very grateful to God for giving me this chance to express my talent and just praise Him through the way I play my sport,” Katsvere said.
Last year, Katsvere was part of the Sables squad which failed to qualify for this year’s Rugby World Cup to be held in Japan.
This, however, did not put an end his to his dream of helping Zimbabwe qualify for their first World Cup since the 1991 edition jointly hosted by England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland and France, while also pursuing a professional rugby career.
“My goal is to ensure I help the team in the best way I can so that we qualify for the World Cup. I believe we are improving as a rugby nation both in Sevens and 15s. I also want to play professionally and I want to reach the same level as my role models and other top players that I grew up watching on TV. I have been working very hard to get there and I know one day I will. It’s not an easy road to get there, but I know if I keep on pushing and working hard nothing is impossible,” he said.
Katsvere, who is part of the Zimbabwe Rugby Academy side currently making its maiden appearance in the SuperSport Rugby Challenge, said participation in the South African provisional tournament was a big step towards professionalising the local game.
“I’ve really enjoyed being part of the Zimbabwe Academy. The experience has been amazing and everything here is done in a professional way from training, to the nutritional side and approach to matches, everything is just professional. ZRU, with the support of several sponsors, are doing the best they can to give us a platform to get to that professional standard and as players. I believe I’m growing as a player and getting better and better,” Katsvere said.
As a young boy, he played soccer with his friends in the streets of the dusty neighbourhood of Mbare, having grown hearing tales of his two great-uncles Edward and Lloyd Katsvere who distinguished themselves as legendary footballers.
But the little boy with a lion heart was adventurous and when rugby was introduced as a new sport at Ardbennie Primary School, while bigger boys were running away from it, he knew at once that his calling had come.
He soon earned a scholarship to Churchill High School before Prince Edward School soon came calling for his services, setting in motion what has been a promising career for the young rugby prodigy.