The Sunday Mail
Deputy Sports Editor
While it will most likely come as a surprise, Hilton Mudariki has only been playing international rugby for just over seven years now.
Since he made his international Sevens and 15s debuts back in 2013, the 27-year-old has been a loyal son, serving the green and white stripes with distinction. And as the veteran scrumhalf approaches the dreaded 30-year mark, Mudariki has earned the right to do pretty much whatever his heart desires.
He recently signed on the dotted line with Harare Sports Club, while pouring water on talks of retiring and reaffirming his commitment to the national cause.
“In terms of my international career, I am happy and content with where I am at this juncture in life,” said Mudariki.
“Obviously I have that desire to keep learning, to keep moving and to reach the highest level.
“There is still plenty of gas in the tank, retirement isn’t something that I am thinking of at this particular time.
“I plan on playing more rugby, both the Sevens and the 15s game.
“I do have a bucket list, definitely playing at a World Cup tournament is one of my targets, and that refers to both the Sevens and the 15s game.
“I missed the opportunity to play at the last Sevens’ World Cup owing to club commitments. I would also like to grace the Olympics,” he said.
With his future targets spelt out, Mudariki’s immediate task is to help shoulder the burden as Zimbabwe prepare to take their bow at the World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series in Chile this week.
The tournament, slated for February 14 to 16, is a 13-team tournament that will feature Brazil, Chile, Germany, Hong Kong, Italy, Jamaica, Japan, Papua New Guinea, Portugal, Tonga, Uganda, Uruguay and Zimbabwe.
They will compete over three rounds alongside three invitational teams which will come from the Americas, including Colombia, Mexico and Paraguay.
The first leg of the tournament will be held in Chile this weekend, with Zimbabwe pooled alongside the hosts Chile, Brazil and Mexico.
However, the Cheetahs camp has been hit by the withdrawal of three key players – Tafadzwa Chitokwindo, Blithe Masevere and Godfrey Muzanargwo,
Mudariki is more than ready to step up to the plate.
“Let me start off by saying that the introduction of this Challenger series is a very welcome development, especially for second tier teams like us. We rarely get adequate game time during the course of the year,” said Mudariki.
“The Olympics remain the main target and these two legs guarantee us at least two competitive tournaments. We will get three if we qualify for Hong Kong at the end of the tournament. All this will be vital for preparations of the Repechage tournament later on during the year,” said the 27-year- old.
“A couple of guys will be missing in Blithe, Goddy and Chitokwindo; and they definitely will be missed, especially Chitokwindo who brings a wealth of experience having been with the team for a long time.
“We definitely miss his leadership. Guys like Blithe and Godfrey are young but promising. They have shown that they have what it takes to compete at this level.
“The onus will be on the senior guys, like myself, to raise our game and provide the cover. It’s one of my 2020 goals – to ensure that I step up and keep improving as a player. l have to set the right examples both on and off the field.
“It won’t be easy in Chile given that we have limited knowledge on our opponents having played both Chile and Brazil just once. We just have to make sure that we are prepared and play well,” he said.