The Sunday News
Mehluli Sibanda recently in Victoria Falls
ONE of the finest rugby players to come out of Zimbabwe, South Africa-based retired flyhalf Kennedy Tsimba regrets not representing the country of his birth in more international matches.
The 40-year-old Tsimba last turned out for the Zimbabwe Sables in 1998 when they played against Namibia.
The South African Rugby Union tried without success to get him to play for South Africa at the peak of his career. He only played six matches for Zimbabwe between 1997 and 1998, his debut coming against Italy A. He scored 72 points for Zimbabwe.
Tsimba had a distinguished first class rugby career for the Pretoria-based Blue Bulls and the Free State Cheetahs. He also turned out for English club Bath Rugby for two seasons.
Together with his late older brother Richard, Kennedy was inducted into the World Rugby Hall of Fame on 25 October 2012.
He continued playing until the age of 36 turning out for the Griffons in the Currie Cup until his retirement in 2010.
In an interview in Victoria Falls last weekend where he was part of the South African Rugby Legends team which took on their Zimbabwean counterparts, Tsimba said while he does regret not achieving much in international rugby, he is proud of what he was able to accomplish in South Africa.
“I do have some regrets for not playing much for my country but I am proud of what I was able to achieve in South Africa where I still hold the record for the fastest to 1 000 first class rugby points which I achieved in 2005. I am really grateful to have done that considering that I only went to South Africa at the age of 25. I won the Player of the Year award four times over there so not to play international rugby after all that did hurt me,’’ said Tsimba.
When he failed to play for the Springboks, he then tried to play for Zimbabwe but contractual obligations did not allow him to represent Zimbabwe. A lot of Zimbabwean rugby players still face the same predicament when they secure contracts in South Africa, they struggle to get released to play for Zimbabwe as their franchises are not keen to allow them for fear of them getting injured while on national duty.
Tsimba is now an afro pop musician and a television sports presenter based in Rustenburg in South Africa’s platinum rich North West province where he runs a community based Rugby without Borders. He is also the director of rugby at the Impala Rugby Club, the reigning Cell C Community Cup champions.
Tsimba, a member of the Zimbabwe Sevens rugby team at the 1997 Sevens Rugby World Cup in Hong Kong revealed that he followed with keen interest Zimbabwe’s unsuccessful bid to qualify for this year’s Rugby World Cup in England. He disclosed that he was even prepared to come out of retirement had Zimbabwe managed to book their place in England.
With deep roots in Mashonaland East where he grew up, Tsimba plans to set up a High Performance Centre in Marondera to benefit children who cannot afford to pay for private coaching. If all goes according to plan, the Rusape born Tsimba aims to have the place up and running by the beginning of next year.