The Sunday News
Mehluli Sibanda, Senior Sports Reporter
RECENTLY re-elected Zimbabwe Rugby Union vice-president South, Martin Shone has expressed his desire to resuscitate the sport in Government schools that had stopped playing, especially in Midlands.
Shone, retained together with his counterpart from the North, Losson Mtongwiza as well as president Aaron Jani said having been given a fresh mandate, he will work tirelessly to ensure that schools like Chaplin, Guinea Fowl and Fletcher resume playing the sport. Not only should they play but Shone wants them to contribute players to the junior national teams.
“What would make me happy is to see Government schools that had stopped playing rugby playing rugby and competing with the powerhouses, competing with the likes of Prince Edward, competing with the likes of Falcon College, that would make me happy to see kids from Chaplin in Gweru playing in the Craven Week, kids from Masvingo playing in the Craven Week,’’ Shone said.
Steps are being taken to invigorate rugby in Midlands and Masvingo, with ZRU Provincial Development Officer, Ruben Kumpasa, who has been stationed in Bulawayo being moved to look after the two provinces. There are also plans to move another PDO, George Mukorera to Matabeleland South to drive development of the sport in that province.
“I have engaged one of our Provincial Development Officers Ruben Kumpasa, he is going to be stationed in Midlands, the reason is so that he grows rugby in those places, the likes of Fletcher High School, Guinea Fowl, Chaplin, the Government schools, in Masvingo also. It’s a deliberate move to move him there so that we get growth from those areas as well.”
Looking at the two years that he was in office, Shone feels that the game at grassroots level has expanded, with the biggest challenge being with the seniors because of the quality that is being displayed.
“Rugby at a development level has grown, I am sure we can do more at the senior level, that’s where we are lacking. Rugby has been played but the quality has not been up to the standard that we would want so we are hoping with this new mandate we now focus on the quality of the rugby that is being played and grow at a senior level because the base I believe is now functional so we now need to grow it at a senior level going forward,’’ he said.
Instability in the Bulawayo Metropolitan Rugby Football Board where chairmen have been removed willy-nilly were some of the challenges faced by Shone in the previous term. He indicated that the warning signs were there in 2018 when BMRFB refused to sign a deal with Titan Law who wanted to renovate Hartsfield Rugby Ground into a state-of-the-art facility.
“The alarm bells started sounding when the Bulawayo Metro rejected the deal where Titan Law wanted to take over Hartsfield and have the naming rights and renovate it. We then went into loggerheads with the board because they did not want to sign over, as you know they have the lease with the Bulawayo City Council,’’ said Shone.
After the refusal by BMRFB to work with Titan Law, Thulani Tabulawa, who was chairman was removed. Fungai Mudzekenyedzi was in charge on an interim capacity until Delvin Ismail was voted in as substantive chairman last year. Ismail was suspended a few months after his election and although he was later reinstated, he was removed at the beginning of this year, with Craig Change taking over the chairmanship.
Ismail cried out for help from ZRU who then decided to act by appointing a committee to look into the affairs of the BMRFB.
“We then started getting reports from the previous chairman saying guys I need help, that’s when the union stepped in, put in a committee to look into the affairs of Hartsfield, of the board itself, they came up with recommendations that we’ve recently implemented.”
At their last board meeting before the annual general meeting, the ZRU board decided to dissolve the BMRFB executive, with an interim committee to be announced soon. Shone believes the action taken is enough to bring an end to the chaos in Bulawayo.
Hopes are high that order can finally return to Bulawayo seeing that the chaos has resulted in the second biggest rugby playing province lagging far behind Harare.