Rugby star ‘leads’ Covid-19 fight

BY DANIEL NHAKANISO

WHILE athletes the world over are finding creative ways to stay fit either in self-isolation, quarantine or lockdown, former Zimbabwe international rugby player Tapfuma Parirenyatwa has been swapping his rugby jersey and boots for a stethoscope and scrubs in a bid to help the nation’s fight against coronavirus.

The 32-year-old eighthman, who is the son of former Health and Child Care minister David Parirenyatwa, is a qualified medical doctor having attended medical school in Havana, Cuba, before resuming his rugby career when he returned to the country in 2014.

Parirenyatwa is among the country’s heroic medical doctors putting their lives on the line in the battle, working long-hour shifts in the emergency services during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The former St John’s College student, however, emphasised the need for the country’s medical practitioners to be provided with adequate protective gear in the fight against the novel coronavirus.

“We are all aware that coronavirus is a global pandemic at the moment and my simple theory is if I’ve the appropriate PPE [personal protective equipment] protection,” Parirenyatwa told Standardsport in an exclusive on Friday.

“I’m always willing to go to work every day along with all the other doctors, that’s the general attitude, but the minute you’re not protected it’s like going to war without ammunition because it then becomes a suicide mission. So as long as there’s adequate protection and safety for myself and my collegues, I’m very happy to go to work and help in the small way that I can. At the moment I’m still going to work. I was at work last night and will be going back this evening just as long as we have the protection,” he said.

Parirenyatwa was a key member of Peter de Villiers’ Sables squad in the 2018 Rugby Africa Gold Cup, which doubled as the qualifiers for last year’s Rugby World Cup, having caught the eye of the former Springboks coach with his solid performances for Old Hararians.

The big eighthman had made his Sables debut two years earlier in another Africa Cup clash against Kenya at Police Grounds, a match which he describes as the major highlight of his career after scoring a try on his debut.

“The highlight of my Sables career was definitely my debut against Kenya at the Police Grounds. “I managed to score a try on debut and I remember my dad was in the stands, that was a very proud moment for me. When I earned my first national call-up, it was a huge honour because I’d never thought I’d have the opportunity again. After I left high school and went to medical school, I never thought I’d be able to compete at such a high level of rugby again. I honestly thought the opportunity had gone, but when an opportunity comes you have to grab it with both hands and I did,” he said.

A multitalented sportsperson at a young age, Parirenyatwa dabbled in hockey, basketball, swimming and rugby during his prep days before progressing to St John’s College where he played first team rugby for the Rams.

His exploits earned him selection into the Zimbabwe Under-18 side before he took a break from rugby to pursue his studies in medicine in Central America.

After his return from Cuba in 2014, Parirenyatwa retraced his passion for the sport and successfully managed to juggle rugby and his medical profession.

“When I came back, I saw a few friends who I’d played with in high school and they invited me to come and play just to stay fit and socialise with friends. I started playing just as an old hobby and got more and more intense. As my competitive nature came out, I started taking it more seriously, spending more time in the gym,” Parirenyatwa.

“As you know, rugby here in Zimbabwe is not yet professional, almost everyone who plays for the Sables has full-time employment elsewhere, so it was not difficult to strike a balance between my job and rugby. I’d go to work and after that, go train in the evenings. On some of the days I’d even go to work after training when I was on call. So you always find time for something you love to do,” he said.

Since playing his last game for Zimbabwe against Uganda in Kampala almost two years ago, Parirenyatwa, who crossed the divide from Old Hararians to Harare Sports Club last year, admits that rugby has taken a back seat recently due to his professional commitments.

“Sadly, rugby has taken a bit of a back seat and also with the current financial crisis in the country, I’m not able to dedicate as much time as I used to do to the sport of rugby,” he said.

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