The Sunday Mail
Deputy Sports Editor
THE Zimbabwe rugby duo of Stanley Muranganwa and Tadiwa Chikuitiro seem to have dissimilar characteristics.
When it comes to their dietary needs and guilty pleasures, Chikuitiro hates avocados, while Muranganwa likes ketchup or tomato sauce, as some call it.
“I hate avocado; it has nothing to do with allergies or anything like that — I just hate it,” 18-year-old Chikuitiro says.
Similarly, Muranganwa cannot really explain why he loves tomato sauce.
The two rugby players are Grade 12 students at Kingswood College in South Africa.
Their heroes and influences are also worlds apart, with Chikuitiro leaning to more rugby-related role models, who include Western Province fly-half Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu and Zimbabweans Thabani “TJ” Maguranyanga and Munashe Mhere.
“I have a few role models in the sport, with top of that list being Sacha Mngomezulu, who is an Under-21 South African player and future Springboks star,” said Chikuitiro.
“The likes of Maguranyanga and Mhere paved the way for players like us to come to South Africa and try to make our mark on the rugby pitch.
“When I was still in Zimbabwe and a lot younger, I would see these guys doing their thing and they just inspired me.”
Conversely, Muranganwa considers basketball legend Michael Jordan and boxer Muhammad Ali as his role models.
The tight-head prop admires the iconic athletes’ “willingness to win and ability to pick themselves up each time they stumbled”.
While the list of differences between Muranganwa and Chikuitiro is endless, what bonds them together is their love for rugby and promising future in sport.
They recently signed for French Pro Rugby Club Aurillac, a move that is likely to be followed by fame and fortune.
Under the guidance of Springboks Schools assistant coach James Winstanley, the two were also instrumental in Kingswood College’s dominance during the season.
The private college — based in the Eastern Cape province — was ranked one of the top rugby schools in South Africa and even attracted some highly rated British institutions like Eton and Malvern in the just-ended 2023 season.
The Zimbabwean players were the mainstays of the team, which prompted their coach, Winstanley, to facilitate trials and a move to France with Division Two side Aurillac.
Stade Aurillacois Cantal Auvergne, as the team is known in full, is a French professional rugby club that was founded in 1904 and currently plies its trade in the French Second Division.
Chikuitiro and Muranganwa are set to join them next month following completion of their matric exams.
“I started off playing football and got invited by the then rugby coach when I was in Grade Three at Alexandra Park Primary School (Harare),” Muranganwa told The Sunday Mail Sport.
“He (the rugby coach) scouted me largely due to my size, as I was a little bit big at the time.
“I didn’t take the sport seriously at first, as I would mostly attend training but never the games.
“My parents then found a letter which was a notification of a rugby match and sat me down for a talk.
“Once done explaining, I was urged to try out the sport, finish what I had started and the rest is history.”
Chikuitiro, an avid Chelsea supporter, has a similar tale.
He was invited to try out the sport and only decided to give it a go after some gentle persuasion from his parents.
Muranganwa even went on to play for the Zimbabwe Junior Sables.
He was part of coach Shaun De Souza’s Barthes Trophy champions earlier this year.
Their exploits naturally led the two athletes to Kingswood College, where the opportunity to move to France materialised.
“I was really happy when I received the news as I was about to go to the University of Johannesburg and was hoping for something more or a bigger and better offer,” added Muranganwa.
Chikuitiro weighed in: “Going to France will be a real test and will provide me with an opportunity to see how good I really am.
“I wasn’t really too excited or too happy.
“I do acknowledge that it is important to celebrate the small victories and allow myself a moment or two to smile.
“However, the job is far from done and there is still a long road ahead.”
They also intend to balance both school and rugby.
Chikuitiro wants to do anything related to business and accounting, while Muranganwa has his sights on business management studies.