Zimbabwe’s victorious under-20 rugby team returned home to a rapturous welcome following their victory over Namibia at the Rugby Africa Under-20 Barthes Trophy in Kenya.
The triumphant Junior Sables were led to the concourse at Robert Mugabe International Airport by their captain, Takudzwa Musingwini. The players appeared thunderstruck at the enthusiasm of scores of supporters and elated parents who flocked to the airport to greet them.
The players appeared thunderstruck at the enthusiasm of thousands of supporters who flocked to the airport to greet them.
Zimbabwe Rugby Union vice-president Martin Shone, who accompanied the team to Kenya said the team’s success against the odds shows that local rugby is on the rise following an uncertain period due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
“This win shows that our rugby is on the rise, it shows that our schools’ rugby system is doing great. It’s a big positive that our junior rugby structures are working well and our biggest task now is to make sure we keep these boys together because they are the next Sables,” Shone said.
Young Sables coach Shaun de Souza took the opportunity to appeal to corporates and individuals to support the team which he said had managed to unconfound expectations with meagre resources.
“We managed to do our best with very few resources and we would like to appeal to the corporate world and anyone who feels that development of rugby is within the youth to support the team. I believe there is no limit to what this group of players can achieve,” De Souza said.
He added: “We were ranked sixth in 2019 so we went into the tournament with that ranking and that’s where we came from. Even the Rugby Africa president was surprised as he never thought that a team that was ranked sixth would be carrying the trophy home. That just shows how much work these guys have put in and the potential they have.”
The Prince Edward Tigers coach said the future of the team is very bright with the majority of the players, who were in Kenya, eligible to feature at next year’s World Rugby Under 20 Trophy.
“This team is just phenomenal, what people don’t realise is that we had a 118-man squad and every time that I select a 30-man squad I’m looking at the future. In the lead up to the tournament, we lost 11 players that could have played in this event. That would’ve been a blow in normal circumstances but I was still confident because I had the background of the players and I knew the depth that we had so we basically went to this tournament with an Under-19 team. From the 45 -man squad we are losing five players, so the majority of the players will be eligible for the World Rugby Under-20 Trophy,” he said.
Kenya is expected to be confirmed as the host of next year’s World Rugby Under-20 Trophy.