MUTARE born and bred international rugby ace Ngoni Chibuwe says he is safe in Romania where he is keeping himself fixated through regular fitness training, regardless of the resumption postponement of the 2019/2020 Romanian topflight rugby league, due to the ongoing global coronavirus pandemic.
The 25-years old European based rugby player who has been rising through the national rugby ranks since 2014 now has 20 test caps for the Sables (Zimbabwe national 15s team) and six (6) International Rugby Board (IRB) caps for the Cheetahs (Zimbabwe national 7s team). In Romania Chibuwe is playing for Sportiv Tomitanii Constanta in the topflight seven-team Romania SuperLiga.
As of yesterday (Wednesday) Romania which recorded its first covid-19 positive case end of February now has a staggering number of 14 107 positive cases, 876 deaths and 5788 patients who have recovered. The country is however expected to ease lockdown restrictions on May 15.
The first leg of the 2019/2020 Romania Superliga ran from August 2019 up to October 2019 and the second leg was supposed to kick off last week Saturday, but has since been indefinitely postponed due to safety reasons to combat covid-19. Living in Romania’s fifth largest city Constanta, where his club is based Chibuwe joined Tomitanii in April 2019, so the 2019/2020 league was his debut season in Romania. He was coming from a brief stint in Spain where he played for four months for Gexto Errugbia club in 2018, which had been relegated to Division Two that year from the Spanish Super league.
Easterntimeszim Sport spoke to Chibuwe through WhatsApp to find out how he was doing as the whole world struggles to combat the covid-19 scourge. Chibuwe who recently lost his father on April 1 said it was hard that he could not travel back home to see off his father. He however said he will forever cherish the love and support that his father gave him to be able to follow his dreams and pursue a professional rugby career.
“As you are aware I was home in November but flied back to Romania in December 2019 to prepare for the remainder of the second half of the rugby season this side, but unfortunately, eversince my return we have not been able to play even friendly games due to covid-19 lockdown. Even the season which was supposed to resume on May 2 has been postponed,” he said.
Chibuwe who is fourth in a family of five comprising of three boys and two girls said his late father sacrificed a lot for him. “He was very supportive and I still can’t believe he is gone, but we celebrate his life. He was a good man and my best friend. He always sacrificed a lot for me to the extent of even taking a loan for me to start my rugby career in South Africa back in 2014,” he said
He said covid-19 has really affected all sectors in Romania but he is trying to stay safe and maintain his fitness training indoors daily. “Lockdown has affected us as a team. Our training has stopped as most Romanian players have been forced to go home. Fortunately I stay on the stadium with a few internationals from Fiji and Georgia, so we are always training in groups of three as per the government regulations. I love training and I have been posting training routines on my Stonefit page both on Facebook and Instagram, so training for me is a hobby,” said Chibuwe who is popularly called ‘Stone’ because of his mascular and strong physique.
Born in the sprawling high density suburb of Sakubva in Mutare, Chibuwe’s journey to stardom is remarkable and the young devoted Christian says he owes his success to God. Although, as a family they eventually moved in 2011 to live in another high density suburb, Dangamvura, Chibuwe said he is proud that his life journey is testimony of how ‘rough diamonds’ in the ghettos can shine if given opportunities to follow their dreams. The game changer for Chibuwe was attaining a rugby scholarship at Hillcrest College from Mutare Boys’ High to complete his Advanced Level. The exposure at Hillcrest College where he went on tours to South Africa and played for the junior Sables was the launch pad of his rugby career.
“Straight after high school in 2014 I joined the Cell C Sharks 7s side then eventually later played for the Sharks Currie Cup squad in 2017. It was that exposure that catapulted my national and international rugby career,” he said.
In the domestic rugby circles he played for his home side Mutare Sports Club but was also sometimes loaned to Old Georgians during his season breaks from the South African (SA) league. In SA he also had brief stints at Durban Collegians and College Rovers. Chibuwe is also committed to his rugby academy, ‘Hearts of Stone’ based in Mutare which was launched in 2017. The academy is into nurturing rugby talent giving grassroots players exposure and experience to train like elite players, as well as interface with seasoned players.
Chibuwe who is still single said playing for international clubs far away from home has been a great opportunity that however comes with its hurdles, especially on family displacement. “As a Christian I believe the Lord directs my paths and his plans for me will come to pass. My aspirations for now are career growth and self-development as a rugby player and I am sure the rest will follow,” said Stone after being asked about his aspirations.
The humble young man said his role models were mostly Zimbabwean born players at local and international level, who had great stories about their rise to success. “I have a lot of role models, but I would say everyone I played with or against, motivated me in some sort of way. However since you insist on names I am inspired by players like Augustine Mberi and Prayer Chitenderu who rose from Mutare like me and carved their names in the country’s rugby hall of fame, then in general national players like Tangai Nemadire, Willis Magasa, Wesley Mbanje, Gerald Sibanda and Tichafara Makwanya also inspire me. Internationally the likes of Tonderai Chavhanga, Tendai Mtawarira and David Pocock are legends that I hope to emulate and shine like them,” said Chibuwe.