Grace Chingoma, Harare Bureau
ZIMBABWEAN rugby star Tonderai Chavhanga believes that if he had not moved to Harare from his rural home in Masvingo his talent, which brought him to the international limelight, could have gone to waste.
The former Springbok star said this when he was speaking to CNN International’s weekly half-hour magazine programme, African Voices.
The athlete began to play rugby at the age of 11 at Blakiston Primary School after he moved to the capital from Zimuto where he grew up with his grandmother.
The 33-year-old believes his lucky break came when he moved to Harare following the death of his father.
“I grew up in a small village in Masvingo province in Zimbabwe. I was actually raised by my grandmother. This is where I found out that I had an athletic ability after I broke my granny’s sewing machine. She wanted to beat me up and I ran as fast as I could.
“After my father passed away, my uncle decided that it was best for me to go live with him in the City. You realise that if I had stayed in rural Zimuto my life could have amounted to nothing.
“He enrolled me into Blakiston Primary School. I started playing rugby immediately and ended up captaining the school team,” he narrated.
The speedy winger, who was gifted with pace, then got a scholarship to study at Prince Edward where he was the youngest player to play for the Tigers team in 100 years.
Chavhanga says he initially struggled to fit into life in the big city but sport made it easier for him.
“I think what made the transition difficult for me into the city was I couldn’t speak English.
“Fortunately, for me sport was a great equaliser.
“I think that sport has the power to bring people together through a shared interest and a passion.
“For me, my sport happened to be rugby and it gave me an opportunity to live my dream and secure my future,” he said.
Chavhanga still vividly remembers the night before his Springbok debut match against Uruguay where he scored six tries to achieve a record which is still standing in South African records.
“World Cup (1996) winning coach Jack White finally gave me the opportunity I dreamt of for so long, selecting me for the Springboks.
“I remember sitting on my bed, the night before the game, just praying, thanking God for giving me the opportunity to play for the Springboks, that it would be great if I can score at least a try just to cap it off,” he said.
Chavhanga is also giving back to the game which made him a household name.
“I am very grateful for a career that gave me priceless memories. I am also thankful for all the people that helped me in my journey and it’s important for me to honour them by giving back.”
The athlete, who retired in 2015, now runs a production house in Durban where he is based.
He is married and has two kids.
“I run a production studio (story animation series) that gives a platform for young Africans to tell their stories.
“As a father of two African kids, I believe Africans could watch content which is relatable and instils good values.
“Inkomo Moving Pictures provides young graduates opportunity to work on life projects which add value to industry and voice their stories.
“Sport has taught me so many life lessons about tenacity and hard work, lessons about getting up when you are knocked down.”