By Tafadzwa Muranganwa
Lying on Zimbabwe’s eastern border with Mozambique is Honde Valley, which is better known for its scenic views and the majestic bananas plantations. It is no longer only the afore-mentioned that illuminate the area, but now also the story of how one rural teacher has changed a rural girls’ school rugby team into a formidable side that is now a force to reckon with in schools rugby tournaments.
Crispen Nyakatsapa a teacher at Sahumani Secondary School said he introduced the elite game of rugby at the school in 2015 after having developed a keen interest of the sport that he had not even played in his entire life, but only watched other teams playing or matches screened on television.
He then teamed up with Phillip Mhangara who deputised him as the school’s rugby coach and in few months they had assembled a formidable rugby girls’ team that made its maiden appearance at the popular Dairibord Schools Rugby Festival’s 2016 edition.
“I just found myself falling in love with the game of rugby prompting me to introduce the sport at the school and luckily another teacher, Phillip Mhangara, came to ably support me in 2015 to set up the rugby school teams.
“A year later in 2016 our girls Under 18 team made its debut at the 2016 Dairibord festival where it equally proved its mettle despite that it was a maiden appearance,” recalls Nyakatsapa.
To show that the team was no pushover, Pamela Domboko, who was the wing blind was plucked to represent the Under 18 Zim select side in South Africa, but unfortunately failed to secure travel documents in time.
The same fate befell Fortunate Nyamawanga and Ability Huhuyana in 2017 after they had shone at the Dairibord rugby festival again, where they were selected to play for Zimbabwe Under 18.
It was only in 2018 when two of the Sahumani Secondary School girls’ rugby team namely Privilege Mabhozhera and Catherine Muranganwa were able to travel to South Africa to play for the Zim Under 18 select side at the ‘Craven Week’ regional tournament.
The affable Nyakatsapa recounts matches the team played this year against perennial rugby powerhouses Harare High and Roosevelt Girls High that his team narrowly lost and drew respectively, after putting splendid performances.
“In 2019 at the Dairibord Festival again we played for the first time in Jubilee field against big giants Harare Girls High and Roosevelt, losing by a narrow margin and drawing respectively,” said the Sahumani Secondary School rugby coach.
This year the rural school’s rugby teams managed to supply five players for Zim Under 18 and Under 20 select teams with only one player failing to acquire travelling documents in time to travel to South Africa.
“Mary Dirwa, Mavis Zunga and Agnes Rori were selected to play for the Zim under 18, in South Africa.
“However, Agnes Rori could not make it because she failed to secure the necessary documents on time, while Privilege Mabhozhera and Catherine Muranganwa played for the Zim under 20,” added Nyakatsapa.
Sahumani Secondary School’s 18 and Under 20 girls’ rugby teams pose for a photo
For a few years after the school started rugby they had no proper rugby kits but this is now solved, thanks to Agriseeds, which donated kits to the two teams – the Under 18 and the Under 20 girls.
While some schools have gyms to cater for the rugby players, the past sports organiser for the school, Moses Hakuna, speaks of how the rugby team has substituted this physical fitness requirement – a basic requirement for rugby – with training the girls in a nearby sand-filled Mupenga river.
“As a way of keeping the players fit since the game of rugby is a physical one, we take them to train at Mupenga River which is laden with sand and this has worked well,” explained Mr Hakuna.
The rugby coach, Mr Nyakatsapa, is however not pleased with the state of the rugby field hence his ‘SOS’ to the corporate world to chip in so that it can have a much-needed facelift.
In Manicaland, Sahumani Secondary School girls’ rugby teams are the indisputable champions so much that they now want to focus on competitive leagues based in the capital, Harare.
“My team does not have competition any more in Manicaland province and we wish we had the resources to join league games played in Harare to expose the players and face more competition,” said a proud Nyakatsapa, who is also the Accounts and Business Enterprise Skills teacher at the school.