The Toyota Cheetahs recently hosted five visitors to the Free State in the form coaches from Zimbabwe who wanted come and learn from a team they hold in high regard.
It was very fitting that on their final night in the City of Roses, the visitors were able to attend the Guinness Pro14 match between the Cheetahs and Cardiff Blues, which ended in a 21-10 win by the hosts.
Gordon Pangeti, Leon Chimbuya, Bright Chivhandire, Brendon Dawson and Derek Chiwari all represent Zimbabwe at different levels of coaching, and their goal is to improve their game north of the Limpopo river and to develop the interest in the game.
Pangeti, who hails from the capital city, Harare, told Bloemfontein Courant they came to Bloemfontein due to the brand of rugby the Free State is known for, and because two of Zimbabwe’s darling sons on the field have also played at the Cheetahs.
“Firstly there is a bit of history between the Cheetahs and Zimbabwe, and that is in the form of two characters, Kennedy Tshimba and Tonderai Chivanga,” said Pangeti.
“The Cheetahs have been exceptional hosts and they understand the sort of talent that comes out of Zimbabwe. They play an expansive game and you know that every year you are going to get really exciting rugby. They might not always have the biggest players, but they are conditioned and they play a really nice brand of rugby.
“In Zimbabwe, what we are struggling with, is the size. We’ve got the skill and we’re trying to play a more expansive brand of rugby as well. Coming here was to trying and pick the brain of Franco Smith a bit and try and get an understanding of his game and trying and improve and better our game back in Zimbabwe,” he added.
“We also got to meet a couple of the guys and that also helped us in learning some of the new ways to improve the strength of the guys. They really play a high-intensity game, so that is what we need to get into.
“We might have physically smaller teams, but if we are able to lift our intensity, we might be able to get better results from our strategy.”
During next year’s U18 Craven Week, which will be hosted in Bloemfontein, a few of the coaches will be returning with the Zimbabwean schools’ team and they will be reporting back on the progress made.
There is also a strong possibility that MJ Smith of the Cheetahs will be heading Zimbabwe to help out with the country’s national U23 team. – MORGAN PIEK