Out of the water and onto the rugby pitch

31 Mar, 2024 - 00:03 0 Views
Out of the water and onto the rugby pitch Benoni Nhekairo

The Sunday News

Tinashe Kusema in Harare

IF one was to throw a stone at a group of rugby-loving youngsters, the odds are pretty high that it will hit one that names All Blacks legend Dan Carter as an idol, role model and huge influence.

Today, the 42-year-old former New Zealand captain is busy making his mark as a shrewd businessman and philanthropist.

His most recent book The Art of Winning is a must-have for aspiring rugby players like Junior Sables co-captain Benoni Nhekairo.

While not necessarily a fanboy, 19-year-old Nhekairo does identify Carter as a key rugby influence and one of the reasons he abandoned a once-promising career in swimming for rugby.

“My love wasn’t rugby, it was swimming,” said the Junior Sables fullback. “I started swimming in Grade Two at Borrowdale Primary School and for many years, it was my main priority.

“Rugby was just something I did on the side after one of the swimming coaches advised me to try it out, largely due to my body size.

“I love swimming and I was actually good at it, going so far as to represent my school, club and province.”
Rugby eventually took over as Nhekairo grew older and saw that the sport had so much to offer.

““For many years, swimming was a very big part of my life and you could say that I went as far as semi-pro as I was training twice daily, represented my province, competed for my country at age-group level and even swam for a club,” he said.

“I think it was only when I got to Form One at St George’s College that I saw the allure of rugby for the very first time.

“I like the hype around the Dragons (St George’s first team), the bond that comes with team sports as compared to individualistic ones like swimming and the family bonds that come with going to bat for each other on the field of play.”

Another turning point in Nhekairo’s career was the 2015 Rugby World Cup, coincidentally Carter’s swansong in the sport.

It was the 42-year-old Carter’s final tournament and the former New Zealand flyhalf capped off his illustrious rugby career by hoisting the trophy after a 34-17 win over perennial rivals and neighbours Australia.

Carter finished the match with 19 points that included two conversions, four penalties and a drop goal, which, for lack of a better word, became the vintage Carter.

“When I was younger, I liked a couple of rugby players,” said Nhekairo.

“However, after watching the 2015 Rugby World Cup and, most specifically, the final, my love and adoration just grew for Dan Carter.

“Over the years, many have come and gone, with notable examples being Andre Pollard (South Africa), Beauden Barrett (New Zealand), Damian McKenzie (New Zealand) and most recently, Thomas Ramos (France). Carter is still tops though.”

With the Barthes Trophy on the horizon and being hosted by Zimbabwe, Nhekairo would be wise to grab a copy of Carter’s book “The Art of Winning”.

The top seller is full of little nuggets of wisdom that could help the young lad as he begins his next rugby chapter as a senior player and co-captain.

The book offers lessons on seeking out greater goals and presents guidelines on reframing an attitude. With the lessons coming from a three-time International Rugby Board Player-of-the-Year and the sport’s all-time leading points scorer (1 598), Nhekairo would be in safe hands following such a great.

The Barthes Trophy, for which Zimbabwe are the defending champions, is the only rugby junior tournament in Africa. The event — which will also include Kenya, Namibia, Senegal, Madagascar, Tunisia, Côte d’Ivoire and Zambia — will run from April 20 to 28 at Old Georgians Sports Club.

Zimbabwe Under-20 rugby coach Shaun de Souza recently appointed Nhekairo as co-captain, alongside Tadiwanashe Bwanya.

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