Paul Munyuki Sports Reporter
Rugby giants Blue Bulls landed in Harare yesterday evening and were quick to declare that their pre-season clash against Toyota Cheetahs is not going to be a Super Rugby exhibition match but rather a serious business opportunity.
The Bulls are one of the most successful rugby franchises in the Southern Hemisphere having won the Super Rugby title three times in 2007, 2009 and 2010 and they believe their game against the Cheetahs will help them in their quest for the next title.
Following a weekend of both business and pleasure having taken time out to enjoy a sunset cruise on Friday evening, speed merchant and Blitzbokke (South Africa Sevens) winger Jamba Ulengo feels it’s time to shift a gear up and focus on their core business.
“Zimbabwe has been wonderful for us so far experiencing a different culture and a different dimension to life is always good, but the fun is over now and we are back to serious business now.
“We are here to play serious rugby because we are preparing for the Super Rugby season and we have to take all the pre-season preparations seriously and I believe as a team we will take everything we do here (in Zimbabwe) seriously.
“There are a number of things we need to improve on prior to the Super Rugby season and this is an opportunity for the boys and the technical team to work on such areas, grow and improve our game,” said the winger.
This is the first time that two Super Rugby sides are playing in Zimbabwe as the Bulls and the Cheetahs will be taking each other on Saturday at the National Sports Stadium in the Lafarge Zimbabwe Cup.
However, this is not Ulengo’s first time in Zimbabwe as he was part of the South Africa Sevens side that beat Zimbabwe in the final of the Africa Cup in December 2014 but he believes playing here in the Blue Bulls colours means something different.
“I have been here before as I was part of the Blitzbokke side that won the Africa Cup winning against Zimbabwe in the final but it is always good to come to a place that you are warmly welcomed and where there are people who appreciate the game.
“I believe the fact that we are here in Zimbabwe is also another great chance for us as the Blue Bulls franchise to expand on our territory, on our fan base and also a way of motivating the young boys and girls who play the sport.
“This (yesterday) morning we were in Victoria Falls where we held a training clinic with the young boys and girls and it was a wonderful experience and it is always good to share some of the time we get with these young players.
“If we look at our squad composition there is quite a number of Springboks in the line-up and who knows, we might inspire the next generation of players because at some stage we were also young and were inspired by such things,” said Ulengo.
A handful of rugby fans received the Bulls at the airport while the St John’s College pipe band received the South African side with musical guard of honour. Former Springboks loose-head prop Dean Greyling,who has also been elevated into the Bulls technical team, feels the coaching clinics they are going to hold in Zimbabwe mostly with the Harare and Chitungwiza school children are a way of giving back to the community.
“We always feel that it is great to give back to the young players, to the communities around us and to give back to the people who make us what we are today and it was fun hanging out with the young players.
“We are set to have more clinics in Harare and these are some of the things we take seriously because it is important to share the knowledge with the young kids. . . they always look up to the big guys regardless of the sport.
“We are not taking the game against the Cheetahs lightly despite the fact that we are playing them away, in a different country or in a different environment than we usually do that is why we brought such a strong squad.
“It is wonderful that we are taking rugby to the rest of the African continent as we try to make sure that we implement all the things we have been doing during this pre-season. The Blue Bulls Company saw it fit to try and do something differently and that is why we are taking the game to the people,” said Greyling.
Forwards: Trevor Nyakane, Pierre Schoeman, Lizo Gqoboka, Dean Greyling, Nqoba Mxoli, Morne Mellett, Marcel van der Merwe, Werner Kruger, Dayan van der Westhuizen, Entienne Swanepoel, Adriaan Strauss, Bandise Maku, Corniel Els, Jaco Visagie, Callie Visagie, RG Snyman, Jason Jenkins, Jannes Kirsten, Marvin Orie, Nicholaas Janse van Rensburg, Le Roux Roets, Irne Herbst, Grant Hattingh, Lappies Labuschagne, Roelof Smit, Ruan Steenkamp, Deon Stegmann, Freddy Ngoza, Nick de Jager, Arno Botha, Clyde Davids, Hanro Liebenberg.
Backs: Rudy Paige, Ivan van Zyl, Piet van Zyl, Tian Schoeman, Francois Brummer, Joshua Stander, Handre Pollard, Burger Odendaal, Jan Serfontein, Daniel Kriel, JT Jackson, Dries Swanepoel, JJ Engelbrecht, Jesse Kriel, Jamba Ulengo, Jade Stigling, Kafense Mahlo, Travis Ismaiel, Luther Obi, Bjorn Basson, Duncan Matthews, Divan Rossouw, Warrick Gelant.