Zimbabwean rugby players will have an opportunity to showcase their talent on the international stage following the formation of the country’s first independently owned professional rugby union franchise team.
Kuva Blue Thunder has announced plans to participate in a new international rugby union which will be launched in December.
The ground-breaking competition will feature South African sides by Toyota Cheetahs, Airlink Pumas and Windhoek Draft Griquas as well as yet-to-be-named sides from the USA, Namibia, Italy, Kenya, and Italy.
The other confirmed sides are CSM Baia Mara from Romania, Spanish side Diables Barcelona and a franchise from Madrid.
Sables team manager Jason Maritz is a co-founder of the Kuva Blue Thunder franchise.
The other co-founders are US-based former Zimbabwe youth international Kisset Chirengende, Switzerland-based sports marketing guru Fungai Mapondera and entrepreneur James Saruchera, whose company Kuva Local has secured the naming rights of the franchise.
Maritz said the vision to establish the new franchise was inspired by the need to professionalise the sport in the country.
“Rugby in Zimbabwe has been on an upward trajectory with its national teams, The Sables making it to the semi-finals of the recent Rugby Africa Cup in Marseille, France and the rugby sevens team The Cheetahs qualifying for the World Cup in September. There has long been a desire to professionalize the game of rugby in Zimbabwe whilst bridging the gap between its successful high school system, club structures and National teams,” Maritz said in a statement on Wednesday.
“This has led to the birth of Kuva Blue Thunder – Zimbabwe’s first independently owned professional rugby franchise that will participate in competitive international rugby union. Kuva Blue Thunder will work closely with all existing stakeholders of the sport in Zimbabwe to ensure a holistic approach is achieved from grassroots to the first XV, drawing in talent from both home and abroad.”
Maritz thanked the Zimbabwe Rugby Union (ZRU) for supporting the project which is expected to change the local rugby landscape.
“We would like to thank the Zimbabwe Rugby Union for its support in endorsing our vision to professionalize the sport in Zimbabwe, and the valuable input we continue to receive from its leadership.”
Kuva Blue Thunder’s formation comes after a number of national unions and potential franchises held a conference in Cape Town from June 26 to 30 where they discussed the establishment of a new franchise competition to be launched in December 2022.
The conference was organised by the UK-based company Redstrike Partners, who describe themselves as “a rights holder and international commercial & strategic representative of federations, clubs, academies, athletes and leagues with a special focus on emerging markets and brands with unfulfilled potential…”
“The objective of the new competition is to provide a pathway to the top table of rugby union by enabling more players and franchises in high potential countries to compete regularly with quality opposition, raising the competitiveness of the game overall,” Maritz said.
“Substantial detailed progress was made with all parties agreeing their intention to proceed and to move onto an approval process (including in accordance with Rugby’s regulations) as well as demonstrating their ability to meet eligibility criteria.”