…Manicaland developmental sides kick-off festival on bad footing
MUTARE’s rugby powerhouse flagship schools Hillcrest College and Mutare Boys’ High will kick of their matches today (Tuesday) at the 2018 edition of the biggest schools rugby tournament in the country, the Dairibord Schools Rugby Festival that kicked-off on Sunday.
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 hoping to get scouted for sports scholarships locally and even abroad.
The festival that will run until Saturday kicked off Sunday with the one-day 16 teams tournament for primary schools which is now running for the third year as trial phase to promote 15s rugby at primary level. Yesterday (Monday) the traditional High schools festival roared to life.
From Manicaland the schools that had confirmed attendance by yesterday were Hillcrest, Mutare Boys’ High, Vengere High from Rusape, Marist from Nyanga and two rural schools from Mutasa district, Sahumani and Muterere that recently started playing rugby and made their debut at the Dairibord festival last year.
As usual the developmental sides play fixtures on Monday, Wednesday and Friday whilst the top rugby sides play on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. The Mutare Shumbas and Hillcrest Leopards are playing in the top tier fixtures. The Shumbas coached by Casper ‘Belt’ Bandi will play first at 12:40pm in the Avenues Field against Vainona from Harare then Hillcrest will have the herculean task of playing the Churchill Bulldogs at 3pm in the main Jubilee Field, a match expected to be one of the major highlights of the day.
Coach Bandi said his side was fired up and is aiming to gain promotion to play bigger teams next year in the Jubilee Field. He said his side is motivated and ecstatic after receiving generous donations of branded vests from Stolz Garments owned by Sithole and t-shirts from Shadreck Nhiwatiwa’s Ice Group company respectively, who are alumni from the school.
“There is no better motivation than that and the boys are fired up. They know the schools alumni known as the Men of Valour (MOV) has done a lot to get them at the festival and victory would be a morale booster to them. Yesterday during our practise at Churchill where we are camping, you could easily see they were hungry for victory and have their hearts in the games ahead. We want to revive the Shumbas pride as a top rugby school and our fixtures this year will give us the spotlight especially against Ellis Robins on Thursday and Plumtree on Saturday. But I am informed the fixture might change and we might play Prince Edward second team on Saturday, which is even a better test of our strength,” said Bandi.
Hillcrest sports director Crispen Mhike said they were ready for the vicious Churchill Bulldogs, one of the country’s best rugby sides known for its hard-hitting game. The Leopards will hope to use their experience from their successful South Africa tour recently at Krugersdorp High School in Gauteng Province 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.
“We are ready for Churchill today. We know they are going to play a running game and are physical but we are ready for that. For the first time we can say we are not underdogs as such at the festival, Yes Churchill has a better record than us but going by form we have a good side and very good chances of winning this year. Our fixtures also show how we are now a hghly rated rugby side as we have St Johns’ College (Thursday) and the visiting side from Zambia Livingstone College,” said Mhike.
Dairibord Schools Rugby Festival director Tawanda Jimu in an interview with Eastern Times Sport said the milk and dairy producer, Dairibord Zimbabwe, was the pinnacle sponsor after it renewed its contract with the festival last year for the next three-years.
“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.
He said this year’s edition had its historic achievements among them the introduction of international invitational girls’ rugby teams from Bangladesh and the Zambia side which participated last year again.
Jimu added that just like last year they were anticipating 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.
Although Jimu was not reachable to confirm how many schools had come through by end of day yesterday, according to changes made to the match fixture programme some schools that were initially anticipated had been removed probably after late cancellations due to financial constraints.
“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. For the boys rugby we have four invitational teams we are expecting from Botswana, Namibia, Zambia and South Africa. We are also expecting international referees, from England, Kenya, South Africa and Uganda,” said Jimu.
On the other hand in yesterday’s fixtures most of the Manicaland teams got off on the wrong footing after losing most games. The Marist Panthers lost 5-15 to Direct Contact a private college, Vengere, Sahumani girls team lost 5-10 to Mabvuku whilst the Muterere girls team was defeated 0-5 by GV1. Venger e was the only side that won 8-0 against Highfields 2.