…Historic Dairibord Schools Rugby festival on the cards
MUTARE’s Hillcrest College first team rugby side, affectionately known as the Leopards, that came back home last week Thursday from a successful tour in South Africa at Krugersdorp High School in West Rand, Gauteng Province are now sharpening teeth for the upcoming 2018 Dairibord Schools Rugby Festival and rugby season in the Super Eight Schools Rugby league.
Hillcrest College sports director Crispen Mhike said he was impressed by his sides’ performance where they won two out of three matches. In their first match the Leopards lost 14-43 to Bastion, but made up for it in the other two matches where they thumped Pretoria Boys High 29-0 and again defeated Soweto Academy 29-13 in their last match.
“The Prince Edward Tigers and St Georges Dragons also participated in the same tournament at Krugersdorp. We also travelled with our hockey teams as there were other games at the tournament. The Leopards played well and it was a good test for us, especially for the rugby side, as we prepare for the upcoming Dairibord Schools Rugby Festival end of this month and our debut in the Super Eight Schools Rugby League where we gained promotion last year,” said Mhike.
End of last season Hillcrest College rugby team was promoted from the schools Co-Ed League to the Super Eight League after it came out tops overall. Its Under 16 side was undefeated throughout the season winning all its seven matches. The first team won five out seven matches and ended the league second behind Eaglesvale. Its second team won five matches, drew one and lost one but finished on top of the log. However, the total outcome (combining results for U-16, 2nd team and 1st team) at the end of the season saw the Leopards finish top of the log with 119 points, MCC (100), Lomagundi (97), Eaglesvale (83), Hellenic (77), Watershed (40), Heritage (30) and Gateway (30).
In Zimbabwe, most private schools have functional rugby leagues with the top-brass either in the schools Super-Eight league or Co-Ed league.
Last year, the Co-Ed league comprised of Hillcrest, Watershed, Gateway, Eaglesvale, Hellenic, Heritage, Midlands Christian College and Lomagundi College, whilst the Super Eight league comprised of Prince Edward, St George’s, Peterhouse, St John’s, Falcon, Christian Brothers College, Kyle College and Churchill. Churchill and Prince Edward are the only public school in the top tier league.
Meanwhile, Dairibord Schools Rugby Festival director Tawanda Jimu told Eastern Times Sport that this year’s festival which will run from April 29 to May 5 had its historic achievements among them the introduction of international invitational girls rugby teams from Bangladesh and Nigeria.
He said just like last year they will have 150 schools to uphold quality and not quantity as they now want to improve on the festival standards as the country’s top schools rugby tournament. Jimu said on April 29 there will as usual be the one-day 16 teams tournament of primary schools as they are trying to promote 15s rugby at primary level, then from April 30 to May 5 continue with the traditional festival for high schools.
“This year is going to be another interesting festival as we have kept the number of teams at 150 just like last year where we had cut down the number from 196 schools in 2016. We will continue focusing on quality not quantity, so we invited some of the best rugby-playing schools. Among the 150 teams we have 34 girls’ teams and invited a team from Bangladesh and another from Nigeria. For the boys rugby we have four invitational teams from Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and South Africa. This year we will also have international referee, two from England, one from Nigeria and two from Kenya, South Africa and Uganda,” said Jimu.
From Manicaland amongst those that had registered by the deadline of registration were Hillcrest, Mutare Boys’ High, Mt Selinda, Vengere High, Marist, St Augastines and the rural schools from Mutasa district, Sahumani and Sagambe that recently started playing rugby and made their debut at the Dairibord festival last year.
Jimus added that as usually the milk and dairy producer, Dairibord Zimbabwe, would bankroll the event as the pinnacle sponsor after it renewed its contract with the Schools Rugby Festival last year for the next three-years.
The annual prestigious event hosted by Prince Edward High School in Harare has over the years been the launch pad for many young players that aspired professional careers in rugby or wanted to get noticed for sports scholarships locally and even abroad.
“The tournament has grown with each passing year to become one of the biggest rugby festivals in Africa. We are confident that this year’s rugby festival will once again herald the beginning of a bright sporting career for our young men and women who are talented and passionate about the sport,” said Jimu.