BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
POLAND might be ranked just one spot above Zimbabwe on the World Rugby Rankings in position 34, but the central European country is fast becoming a popular destination for local rugby players.
After years in the doldrums, the rugby union in Poland, which has in the past played second fiddle to the Sevens format, has been undergoing a major revamp.
And Zimbabwean players are set to play a major role in the Polish game’s resurgence while also furthering their careers.
Barely a year after fleet-footed utility back Martin Mangongo became the first Zimbabwe international to join a club in Poland following his move to the Polish Rugby Ekstraliga side SKRA Warsaw; his Sables teammate Roger “Royal” Mwale has also joined the trek.
The versatile 31 year-old front rower, who can play at prop or hooker is set to feature in the 2020 Polish Rugby Ekstraliga season, which gets underway next week after signing a four year deal with Budowlani Lublin Rugby Club based in eastern Poland.
Mwale is one of the country’s most travelled rugby players and his move to Budowlani Lublin Rugby Club comes after stints in South Africa, Spain, Portugal and most recently Kenya where he featured for the Nairobi side Kabras Rugby Club last season.
The Polish club reckons the big Zimbabwean has the potential to become a star in the Polish Rugby Ekstraliga.
“The latest reinforcement in the Budowlani Lublin team Roger “Royal” Mwale is a character, who has the potential to become the star of our league,” the club said in a statement on their official website.
“Incredibly strong and fast first line player, weighing 110 kg with 176 cm tall Roger is a full-time representative of his country Zimbabwe where he appeared in every age category possible. “He has played 14 official matches at the level of senior representation. Between 2017-2019 and 2017-2019 he played for Benfica Rugby Club in Portugal. Roger welcome to EDACH Budowlani Lublin!”
Mwale is set to be one of the three Zimbabweans at the club. The club is already home to Panashe Dube, a former Midlands Christian School student and ex-Lomagundi College player Dexter Wenyika, who are also studying at Vincent Pol University, a private institution located in Lublin in.
Zimbabwe is also represented in Poland’s women’s domestic competition where national women’s team players Debbie Enia Mutebuka, a law student, and Debra Tariro Teterai, who is studying nursing, are playing for AZS AWF Warszawa, a Division Two side, based in the Polish city of Lodz.
Mutebuka and Teterai, both former pupils of Girls High School in Harare, are playing sevens rugby.
However Mwale, who has been capped 14 times by the Sables since making his debut in 2012 is currently the most high profile player to make the trek to Poland to date.
Mwale was part of Zimbabwe’s squad that won the Victoria Cup last year.
Born in the coal mining town of Hwange, in Matabeleland North, Mwale was introduced to rugby at a tender age at Thomas Coulter Junior School in Hwange.
He proceeded to Gifford High School in Bulawayo for his secondary education before being offered a full scholarship at Falcon College for the last two years of high school.
After high school he had a stint with local rugby giants Old Hararians (OH) before moving to South Africa where he played for Wits University in Johannesburg and we won the Varsity Shield.
The big front rower also had stints with Durban clubs Ballito Dolphins and Durban Collegians Rugby Club with whom he won the league in 2013 to earn selection in the Sharks XV clubs team for two seasons in a row.
Mwale, who also had a stint with the top Cape Town club False Bay, was one of the first local players to move to Spain when he got an offer to play for Union Rugby Almeria 2014. In his first season he was voted player of the season having scored 18 tries.
After a successful debut season Mwale got an offer to go to Portugal where he spent two years at the topflight club Sport Lisboa Benfica before moving to Kabras rugby club last season.