Makhanda – Two young rugby talents in Makhanda, Eastern Cape, are looking to carve out their careers in enemy territory once they finish their matric exams.
Kingswood College matrics Stanley Muranganwa and Tadiwa Chikutiro have packed their bags and are champing at the bit to start their rugby careers with professional outfit Club Aurillac, north of Toulouse, come December.
“As a school, we are very proud of Stanley and Tadiwa.
“Obviously, the international interest in two of our players speaks to the quality of Kingswood and the programmes we offer, but even more so, it shows how these boys have excelled through their hard work and dedication to the sport they love,” Kingswood head of sport Murray Ranger said.
Both boys, originally from Zimbabwe, made their way to Kingswood in grade 8 when the Makhanda school offered them scholarships for being standouts on the rugby field.
There they became close friends, and both boys are excited to embark on this journey together.
“Two weeks ago, we were standing in roll call when I checked my phone and saw the message about Aurillac,” tight-head Muranganwa said.
“At that stage, I had already received bursaries from the University of Johannesburg and the University of Cape Town, but it didn’t feel like the right call.
“But this contract in France immediately had me excited.
“I just know this is where I belong.”
As a young boy, his first love back home in Zimbabwe was soccer.
However, due to his bulk, a teacher invited him to play rugby one weekend.
Muranganwa had little interest in going, but after his mother found a note from the teacher in his laundry hours before his first match, she forced him to go.
“And the rest is history, I guess.
“I immediately fell in love with rugby and now I have the opportunity to make a career out of it,” Muranganwa said.
Noticed by Talent Scouts
He was playing at a school rugby festival in Zimbabwe in grade 7 when talent scouts from Kingswood noticed him, and shortly thereafter he came to Makhanda.
Teammate and outside centre Chikutiro said he had wanted to give up rugby in junior school to pursue soccer, but thanks to his coach and mother insisting he stick with it, he developed a deep love for the sport.
“I was 14 years old when our school team toured SA and I got to see how the game is played here.
“I guess I drew attention because not long after that Kingswood brought me on board.
“I played one game at flyhalf before the coach moved me to outside centre, and I really feel like I shine in this position.”
Hearing about the contract with Aurillac was a “surreal moment” for Chikutiro, and one he is happy to be sharing with his friend.
“Stanley and I have really become close in recent months.
“We both come from Zim, we stay near each other and we gym together.
“Knowing that I’m going abroad with a friend really makes it easier and an even more special experience.”
Aurillac has a rich history spanning more than 100 years.
The professional side competes in Pro Rugby D2, France’s second professional division.
However, the club’s academy is rated among the best development programmes in the country, and young players coming through their ranks are immediately on the radar of top-tier first-division French sides.
Their coach at Kingswood, James Winstanley, was delighted to see his charges get the call to further their rugby careers.
“These two boys are exceptional players.
“Since they came here in grade 8, you could see they had talent right from the word go, and I always knew they had the potential to make it big.
“I want to see them excel and make a career out of rugby, so I am absolutely delighted for them to get this huge opportunity,” Winstanley said.
The boys are set to write their final exams in December and will be on a plane to France as soon as they finish.