Petros Kausiyo Deputy Sports Editor
VETERAN prop Denford Mutamangira has hailed the work ethic and team effort of his Harare Sports Club outfit that saw them complete an unbeaten season’s run with a convincing 26-14 victory over rivals Old Georgians in the Harare Rugby League Cup final at Machinery Exchange Stadium on Saturday.
Mutamangira, and a host of other Zimbabwe internationals, were returning to club duties after turning out for the Sables in the national team’s failed 2019 World Cup qualification bid.
But the Sables internationals showed they had still gained some invaluable experience from the continental game when they helped Sportivo complete a 100 percent run in which they were won all their 14 games in the season.
The hosts’ victory brought the curtain down to their fine season in which they ended defending champions OGs’ recent dominance of the domestic club game.
Playing before an appreciative crowd, that included national coach Peter De Villiers, Sportivo ran in four tries and led from start to finish.
Mutamangira, who is also the national team captain, played the full 80 minutes, leading the Sports Club pack which also included fellow Sables forward Cleopas Kundiona and had another Zimbabwe international Takudzwa Mandiwanza starting on the bench.
The 34-year-old tight head prop paid tribute to his teammates for a “job well done’’ and said they had now set their sights on competing against other teams from the continent.
“It was a good feeling putting on the red and white jersey for Sports Club, I never thought I would be able to play club rugby due to the national duty but there was an opportunity.
‘‘It was a great game of rugby played at a high tempo and the skills level was very good as well against an OGs side that gave it their all.
“As Sports Club we stayed composed and stuck to our structure, our confidence was very high and we never panicked at any stage.
“We said to ourselves before the game that we knew what we have to do. The pressure is on them, we have beaten them twice already so let’s go out there and enjoy our last game of the season.
“Let’s cut down on errors and just have fun. The guys really worked hard in 2018, their commitment and dedication is just unbelievable.
“The technical team and management, as well, were just on point so it was a collective effort from everyone and we are now looking forward to the Gold Cup,’’ Mutamangira said.
Club chairman Tinashe Shamu was also equally over the moon and revealed they had been pleasantly surprised by their success which had come earlier into their five-year plan.
Shamu, whose executive took over Sports Cub in 2016 when the club was reportedly in turmoil and facing a massive player exodus, paid tribute to coaches Daniel Hondo, Liam Middleton and Brighton Chivandire for assisting in stabilising the ship since last year and laying the groundwork for success.
“It has been process. Since we took over in 2016 we used the first six months of 2017 as a learning curve because we came in when Harare Sports Club was in turmoil with players leaving the club.
“We came in with a five-year plan but to be honest we didn’t expect to be successful this early . . . while we were getting bad OGs were getting stronger and stronger. We also managed to convince coach Hondo, who was frustrated and was on his way out, to stay on and roped in Chivandire. We also roped in Liam and the results have been there for everyone to see.
“A lot of young players were also given the platform to compete for places and this time it was not just about boys from Churchill but even those from such areas like Budiriro making it into the team,’’ Shamu said.
Shamu also noted the impact that the Zimbabwe internationals had on his club’s campaign.
“We had a number of players who were with the Sables and this helped bring competition into the team each time they were not on national duty and that is why even in Saturday’s final we could afford to win despite missing three national team centres – Kudzai Mashawi, Brandon Mandivenga and Tafadzwa Mhende who were out with injuries,’’ he said.