…Victoria Cup stakes get higher against Uganda
AFTER an impressive debut for the Sables against Zambia in the opening match of their 2019 Victoria Cup campaign, the Mutare born and bred rugby star, Martin Mangongo, is eyeing for more caps in the 15s senior national rugby side.
The 21-year old rugby ace popularly known as the ‘Speedster’, scored a striking try in the Zambia match which announced his presence in the big league where he says he hopes to stay. The former Mutare Sports Club player who early this year joined South Africa’s Western Province Under-21 side in the 2019 Super League A that ran from February to June is known for his dexterity and lightning bolt take off on the field. His extraordinary record of having played for the junior Sables at all levels from U-16, 18, 19 and 20 speaks for itself about his ability and bright future in the rugby domain.
The Sables opened their Victoria Cup campaign with a 39-10 victory over Zambia in the home match played in Harare on July 13. Mangongo who was playing wing placed the second try for the Sables after centre Daniel Capsopoulos ending the first half 15-3 after both sides kicked through penalty conversions. In the second half Capsopoulos added one more try as well as vice captain Hilton Mudariki whilst another young player Takudzwa Chieza who came in as a substitute put the icing on the cake with two spectacular tries that stamped his authority.
“It was a great honour and privilege to play for the senior side and earn my first cap. Scoring on my debut was really unbelievable and it felt great. I am part of the camp for the next match against Uganda this Saturday and hope to make the final traveling squad,” said Mangongo in an interview with EasternTimesZim Sport on Sunday.
The coach Brendan Dawson squad will be facing the Cranes of Uganda this Saturday in their second Victoria Cup fixture. Dawson chose a young-looking squad against Zambia, but Uganda will definitely be a more formidable rival and it will be interesting to see who will make the cut in the final squad that will travel to Kampala. Uganda went down 18-38 to Zimbabwe in their own backyard in the Rugby Africa Gold Cup last year so the Cranes will definitely be guns blazing to settle the score. The match kicks off at 4pm in Kampala.
Against Zambia Dawson took most of the players that were part of his Zimbabwe Rugby Academy squad which had its debut season in the SuperSport Rugby Challenge early this year. There were also eight debutants and two of them hail from Manicaland, Mangongo and Godwin ‘Muchi’ Mangenje who played lock. The other debutants were front rowers Henri Boshoff and Tyran Fagan, flanker Blithe Mavesere and reserves Tatenda Rwenya and Moses Gunda.
Mangenje who is from Mutare had a stint in 2017 for one season at the French club Georgian Rugby is another former junior Sables player that was tried out in the senior squad, leaving out some seasoned players that had been drafted for the camp, the likes of Shayne Makombe, Tafadzwa Chitokwindo, Biselele Tshamala, Shingirai Katsvere to mention a few, who have been regular names in the Sables. This was a good call by coach Dawson according to some staunch rugby followers given that the national side has in the past years been heavily criticized for failing to rejuvenate with new, young players like what the South African Springboks does each year. Manicaland had a record high of four players that made it into the final squad. Apart from debutants Mangongo and Mangenje, Kudakwashe Chiwanza who hails from Chimanimani but plays for Old Georgians made a return to the Sables, whilst the Romanian based international player Ngoni Chibuwe who is from Mutare registered his 16th cap for the senior national side.
Chibuwe had an impressive start early this year in his first season at the Romanian SupaLiga side Asociatia Club Sportiv Tomitanii Constanța, after leaving his Spanish club, Getxo Errugbia, where he played for one season, about three and half months, in 2018. Affectionately known as ‘Stone’ in rugby circles, Chibuwe, who hails from Mutare’s high-density suburb of Dangamvura, attended school at Mutare Boys’ High School and later Hillcrest College. His professional rugby career set off in 2015 in South Africa when he was drafted into the Cell C Sharks 7s side for one season and since then his international rugby career has been on the rise.
The tough built, 23 year old centre said he was optimistic they will win against Uganda after having more preparation this week to work as a team and perfect their combinations. “I was really excited to get back and play back home for the Sables. I have 16caps now for the Sables. The Zambia game was great but sometimes we failed to maximize on open play opportunities that we got and we need to work on that as a team. I’m quite certain and really confident we can win against Uganda,” said Chibuwe.
The four nation’s tournament, the Victoria Cup, which features Kenya, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe was cancelled in 2004 and was revived this year after the cancellation of the Gold Cup. It will be important for competitive rugby experience in the Sables campaign for the 2023 Rugby World Cup. Starting from November 2019, 16 teams will compete in the new Rugby Africa Cup (RAC) with an aim to qualify for the 2023 Rugby World Cup in 2022. The top 16 teams based on the African ranking will compete in a single coordinated competition until the last two face each other in the final.
The Victoria Cup match schedule:
22 June Kenya v Uganda (Played); 13 July Uganda v Kenya (Played); 13 July Zimbabwe v Zambia (Played); 27 July Uganda v Zimbabwe; 27 July Zambia v Kenya; 10 August Uganda v Zambia; 17 August Kenya v Zambia; 24 August Zimbabwe v Uganda; 31 August Zambia v Uganda; 14 September Zambia v Zimbabwe; TBC Kenya v Zimbabwe