By Enock Muchinjo
Exciting schools rugby star Tinashe Hombiro has been called up to Zimbabwe’s national team ahead of trips to Zambia and Kenya, much to the delight of his Prince Edward School coach Shaun De Souza.
The gifted 18-year-old flyhalf, who is in his final year of high school, is Prince Edward’s headboy and rugby first-team captain.
The Sables can seal the Victoria Cup with a bonus point win from their penultimate tie away to the tournament whipping boys Zambia next weekend ahead of a much daunting assignment in Kenya, and De Souza reckons his protégé is ready to make the giant leap to Test rugby.
“Yes, his rugby IQ is definitely ready,” De Souza told IndependentSport.
“He will need to invest more gym time to improve his physicality. But his rugby mindset is ready.”
Hombiro has been included in the Sables squad for the first time alongside another product of De Souza in the form of loose forward Tonderai “Dwadwa” Chiwambutsa, who completed his schooling at Prince Edward last year.
It will also be the first crack at international rugby for Chiwambutsa, who was in the Zimbabwe Academy set-up for this year’s edition of the SuperSport Challenge in South Africa.
And that’s not all. Hombiro and Chiwambutsa are joining in the Sables 30-man squad five other former Prince Edward stars already Test-capped by Zimbabwe, all coached by De Souza at school over the past five years.
It is a matter of great pride for De Souza, himself a Prince Edward alumnus and one-time Sables captain.
“I’m over the moon watching the numbers grow of the boys I was fortunate to coach in the Tigers system since 2014 and now finding themselves in the Sables set-up,” the former Old Hararians and Zimbabwe speedy winger said.
“From Ernest (Mudzengerere), Godwin (Mangenje), Godfrey (Muzanargwo), Brian (Nyaude), Shingi (Katsvere) and now Tinashe and Dwadwa.”
Hombiro’s call-up will particularly ignite much interest, especially if he were to achieve the rare feat of playing international rugby while still in school.
“I’m proud to have walked this path with Tinashe and have a call-up to the national team while still carrying the titles of Prince Edward School headboy and rugby captain. It is history for the school and as his coach, I’m proud of him and believe that he has a bright future in the sport. This season we worked on taking his game to the next level, working on a system that allowed him to diversify his playmaker role.”
The Sables’ flyhalf position has been held over the last two Tests by newcomer Dudlee White-Sharpley, who has had mixed fortunes in the critical role.
De Souza believes the Sables’ playmaking role tends to be complex because choice of personnel is determined by the quality of the other players in the side.
“The flyhalf position is sensitive for the Sables because they always have to find a system that works for the calibre of players they have, trying to keep ball in hand, creativity in midfield to open up space for the speed on the wings,” remarked De Souza. “He (Hombiro) has the ability to perform and the young team will definitely embrace his potential at number 10.”
Apart from Hombiro and Chiwambutsa, the other new call-up to the Sables is England-based loose forward Sean Beever, a former Falcon College player.
Meanwhile, Zimbabwe welcomes back 20-year-old star tighthead prop Cleopas Kundiona, who has not played Test rugby this year due to commitments with Sharks’ Under-21 Currie Cup side in South Africa.
Kundiona returns to the Sables fold alongside fellow tighthead Lawrence Cleminson, who has also not featured this year in international rugby.
Loosehead Tyran Fagan, nicknamed “Zim1” by teammates due to his ever-present role in the team’s number one jersey since the SuperSport Challenge right through to Test rugby, is however not available for both ties. Fagan is poised to take up a new contract in Spain.
Also making a comeback to the side is towering lock Kudakwashe Nyakufaringwa.
News coming out of the Sables camp is that the team will go all guns blazing in Zambia to win the four-team Test Championship with a game to spare.
If secured, an unbeaten campaign–with bragging rights and world ranking points at stake–will now be foremost in the mind against the Kenyans in Nairobi.
Forwards: Tatenda Rwenyu, Keith Murray, Matthew Mandioma, Royal Mwale, Cleopas Kundiona, Lawrence Cleminson, David Makanda, Godwin Mangenje, Godfrey Muzanargwo, George Saungweme, Kudakwashe Nyakufaringwa, Brian Nyaude, Sean Beevor, Blithe Mavesere, Tonderai Chiwambutsa, Biselele Tshamala.
Backs: Hilton Mudariki (captain), Ernest Mudzengerere, Dudlee White-Sharpley, Jerry Jaravaza, Tinashe Hombiro, Ngoni Chibuwe, Taku Chieza, Daniel Capsopoulos, Takudzwa Kumadiro, Shingi Katsvere, Rufaro Chikwaira, Kuda Chiwanza, Martin Mangongo.