South Africa-based Zimbabwe rugby star Tapiwa Mafura has started pre-season training with Toyota Cheetahs pre-season ahead of their return to European rugby in December when they make a highly anticipated debut in the European Challenge Cup.
Mafura, who won the Currie Cup title last season with the Air Link Pumas retraced his roots back to Bloemfontein by agreeing to a move to re-join the Toyota Cheetahs towards the end of last season.
The Toyota Cheetahs’ preseason has been underway for a few weeks already and as they train, more new faces are starting to trickle into the camp.
Sables outside back Mafura is one of the new faces in the Toyota Cheetahs camp along with the former Griquas trio of Munier Hartzenberg (wing), Sibabalo Qoma (lock and loose-forward), and Mzwanele Zito (lock).
The newly contracted hooker, Marko Janse van Rensburg, has also reported for duty after finishing up in the USA where he played ATL Rugby in Atlanta.
Mafura makes a return to the Cheetahs after previously having played for the franchise before a two-year spell at the Currie Cup champions, the Pumas.
In addition, the former Cheetahs lock, Jean Drosté, is also training with the team, but at this stage he is only practising with the team and there is no confirmation on a possible return.
There is also a former Junior Springbok player in training with the team and clarity on his contracting will be provided in the coming weeks.
A lot of the Cheetahs’ focus during the preseason is on their fitness – something they feel cost them the Currie Cup.
The Cheetahs’ coach, Hawies Fourie, told Bloemfontein Courant the new recruits have left an impression already and he is happy with how the team’s fitness is steadily improving.
“The preseason is going well and the guys are responding to the challenges with the fitness and conditioning. there are huge improvements with their fitness levels and strength – that is something that we wanted out of this block.
“Our last proper preseason was in 2020, just after the Covid-19 pandemic. Just after that we’ve been playing almost non-stop for two years.
“Regarding the new players that arrived – we are all excited about them. Tapiwa Mafura joined us from the Pumas, while the Griquas guys are Mzwanele Zito, Siba Qoma and Munier Hartzenberg. They have slotted in nicely and they are all fit and working hard. They are all good people as well, so they slotted in well. We are satisfied with the squad that we have at the moment.”
The Cheetahs will kick off their Challenge Cup campaign in December when they come up against Section Paloise in Pau, France.