Mehluli Sibanda Acting Sports Editor
HE has scored numerous tries for the national Sevens rugby team over the last few years but Tafadzwa Chitokwindo had to juggle between his studies in South Africa and representing the Zimbabwe Cheetahs.
That move paid off for Chitokwindo who at 23 has already represented Zimbabwe at an International Rugby Board Sevens Rugby World Cup when the Cheetahs winger graduated early this month at the esteemed South African’s Rhodes University with a Bachelor of Commerce Degree majoring in Economics and Management, an achievement few of the country’s top sportspersons boast of.
Born 20 September 1990 in Harare, Chitokwindo grew up in the capital, Bulawayo and Masvingo. He did his primary education at Glen View 5 in Harare, Hillside Junior in Bulawayo and Victoria Primary School in Masvingo. The vastly talented sportsman has in his possession a number of medals at the Zimbabwe National Youth Games while he was representing Masvingo province in 100m, 200m, long jump, triple jump as well as 110m hurdles.
It was while in high school in Masvingo that his rugby career took off. Chitokwindo attended Victoria High School from Form One up to Four. He was then lured to Kyle College because of his rugby talent for his advanced level.
The winger, blessed with immense pace and a brilliant side step, was selected into the Zimbabwe team for the annual Coca-Cola Craven Week in South Africa in 2008. In 2010, Chitokwindo made the Young Sables squad for the IRB Junior World Trophy in Russia. The year proved to be fruitful for the player as he also made his Zimbabwe Sables debut when Zimbabwe played against Kenya at Harare Sports Club that same year in a dead rubber Victoria Cup fixture.
Chitokwindo made his Cheetahs debut at the Dubai Sevens at the end of 2010, the same year he was voted the rookie of the year by his local club Old Hararians after a brilliant show for Old Boys in the National Rugby League. He had been part of the national select side Goshawks at the Middelburg Sevens in Mpumalanga, South Africa.
In 2011, Chitokwindo enrolled for his studies at Rhodes University where he was part of the university’s first rugby team throughout the three years he spent in Grahamstown. He played wing and fullback for the university rugby team.
Playing international rugby and studying was no easy task for Chitokwindo as he spent most of the time away from his studies, which meant that he had to play catch up.
“I was more than an average student at high school but at university because I spent a lot of time away I ended up playing catch up. I managed to balance up the two, now I am glad I can play sports knowing that I have my papers at home,’’ said Chitokwindo.
At Rhodes, he was a popular figure and was called Mr Rugby. His exploits on the rugby field did not go unnoticed with the player being named as the Sportsman of the Year runner-up in 2012 and then taking the top award last year.
Nicknamed Marabha or Rubber by his Cheetahs teammates because of his enormous speed on the rugby field, Chitokwindo was last year part of the Gilbert Nyamutsamba coached Cheetahs squad which took part in the IRB Sevens Rugby World Cup in Moscow, Russia, where Zimbabwe finished 13th out of 24 teams.
His parents have always been supportive of him playing international rugby for Zimbabwe while pursuing his studies. Chitokwindo, the oldest in a family of three, is an inspiration to the younger ones in his clan who look up to him for motivation.
While he has been to almost all tournaments the Cheetahs have taken part in since 2010, the winger has only played three Tests for the Zimbabwe Sables. In November last year he made himself unavailable when the national fifteens team took part in a tri-nations tournament in Namibia where they played against Namibia and Kenya because he was writing his final examinations at Rhodes.
Now with Zimbabwe faced with the crucial 2015 IRB Rugby World Cup qualifiers in Madagascar at the end of June, Chitokwindo hopes to play a vital part in Zimbabwe’s quest for a World Cup return since their last appearance at the global rugby showpiece in Wales in 1991. Chitokwindo also aims to be part of the Zimbabwe team for the qualifiers for the 2016 Olympics in Brazil where rugby makes its debut.
While he is job hunting in Harare, he wants to play as much rugby as he can but if he does not achieve anything with the sport, he is planning to quit. “I am looking for a job that is flexible enough to allow me to continue representing my country. Will play rugby for three to four years if I am not satisfied will pursue other interests that will give me a stable income,’’ Chitokwindo said.
In his advice to up and coming sportspersons who wish to balance studying and following their sports dreams, Chitokwindo urged them to follow their dreams as it was possible to pursue both interests.
Most of the sportspersons in Zimbabwe have nothing to fall back on when their careers are over but Chitokwindo can now proudly pull on the number seven for the Cheetahs and number 14 for the Sables knowing full well that when his rugby playing days are over, he has laid the foundation for his future.