The Sunday Mail
Deputy Sports Editor
THE day will come when Kudakwashe Chiwanza decides to open up on how he fell in and out of love with rugby.
Maybe, he will do it through a tell-all biography or interview.
However, for now, we have to make do with a cryptic but loaded reason behind what many are calling an “unfortunate” and “untimely” retirement from the game.
“A lot happened to me this year, rugby-wise, and I wasn’t enjoying it anymore,” said the former Zimbabwe Sables and Cheetahs player.
“I felt I was giving my all, but it just wasn’t the same . . .”
The 32-year-old former Zimbabwe international broke the news on Facebook.
He indicated that the recent Zambezi Challenge was to be his last outing.
“It has been such a wonderful 13 years, and none of it would have been possible without the love and support from all of you.”
One of the reasons Chiwanza’s retirement appears bizarre is its announcement on the eve of the Sevens’ Africa Cup presently underway at Harare Sports Club’s Machinery Exchange Stadium.
The tournament, which ends today, attracted some of the continent’s Sevens heavyweights such as South Africa’s Bliztboks and Kenya — two teams that play in the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series.
Uganda are an emerging threat, while Zambia, Madagascar, Tunisia, Burkina Faso, Namibia, Algeria, Nigeria, Cote d’Ivoire and hosts Zimbabwe all took part.
With an automatic ticket to next year’s Paris Olympic Games guaranteed for today’s winner, it seems the Africa Cup would have provided the perfect stage for a final bow for Chiwanza.
However, he seems to have made up his mind a long time ago.
“It’s something I had been thinking about since last year, and the Zambezi Challenge Cup just felt like the right time for me to call time on my 13-year international rugby career.
“I have no regrets at all,” he said.
The ex-Falcon College learner found his footing pretty early in his career, as he joined Old Georgians Rugby Club soon after school in 2011.
Chiwanza was named rookie of the year in his debut season. Call-ups to the Sables and Cheetahs, his preferred format, soon followed, after which he became a semi-permanent member of the latter.
The 2014 and 2015 seasons are arguably his greatest years, as he was amongst the top try-scorers for both.
He also won the title with Old Georgians.
Prior to this, he tried out sports that include football, basketball and hockey.
“Rugby wasn’t my first choice in sports. Most people would be surprised to know that cricket was my first love,” he was once quoted saying. “I made the Manicaland provisional side and even had a short stint with Strugglers Cricket Club.”
He only started playing rugby when he enrolled at Mvurachena Primary School in Chipinge, Manicaland, where he was forced to partake every sport, as the institution did not have that many learners.
“It was at Mvurachena, when I was in Grade Six, that I started playing for Eastern District Rugby,” he said.
His numerous accolades on the rugby front include making the Matabeleland Under-18 team for three straight years and then the Zimbabwe Under-20 Junior World Trophy in 2011.
Chiwanza played for Old Georgians (2011-2023), had a couple of stints in varsity rugby and made the Sharks Academy tour team.
He would get his Sables and Cheetahs debuts in 2011.
He was also part of the World Cup Sevens team and Africa Cup teams in 2018.
With the Sables, he won the Victoria Cup in 2011 and 2019, and participated in the SuperSport Rugby Challenge in 2019.
Chiwanza believes his debut for the Sables was a special moment in his career, as his mother, Judith, was present to watch him play.
Sadly, she later passed away following a bout of pneumonia.
Other notable rugby moments, Chiwanza said, included “playing Spain in Hong Kong in 2016 and Africa Cup 2018”.
“I also had the pleasure of meeting the likes of Jonah Lomu, Sonny Bill Williams (New Zealand), Bryan Habana (South Africa), Brian O’Driscoll (Ireland) and Dan Norton (Great Britain), who are some top Sevens players.
“Monaco and Hong Kong were among my favourite venues and tournaments,” he said.
As he rides off into the sunset, Chiwanza even had some wise words for his former teammates, friends and, most importantly, fans.
“Never give up on your dreams, but just keep working hard and your time will come.
“Everyone should aim for the highest cloud so that if you miss it, you will hit a lofty mountain.”
■ X: @Nashaar