Black Diamonds

26 Oct, 2012 - 22:10 0 Views

The Herald

They were both inducted into the International Rugby Board’s Hall of Fame.
They effectively became the first Zimbabweans and first blacks to join the list of the greatest rugby players and administrators who have enhanced the game of rugby through their exceptional achievements.
The two were surely some of the greatest sportsmen the country ever produced.
Their sister Aisha also represented the nation in basketball before switching over to rugby where she is now an administrator, holding one of the two Zimbabwe Rugby Union vice-presidents’ posts.
The legendary Richard, who became the first black player to represent Zimbabwe in international rugby becoming a veteran of two Rugby World Cups in 1987 and 1991, was on Thursday bestowed with his honour posthumously.
The colourful Zimbabwe centre emphasised all that is good about the rugby World Cup, lighting up stadiums with his pyrotechnic-laden performances.
His theatrics were a little heavy at times and in 1987 he was forced to leave the field after dislocating his shoulder while pulling off an extravagant try-scoring celebration against Romania — a game the Sables lost by one point.
Once considered amongst the best fly-halves in the world, Kennedy became the first black player to captain Zimbabwe when he took over from current Sables’ coach Brendan Dawson in 1999.
“I am happy that both my late brother Richard and I have been recognised among the rugby greats and the award itself speaks volume not only for the two of us but as a sign of what Zimbabwe rugby is capable of producing.
“The fact that we have become the first black rugby players to be inducted in the Hall of Fame should send a big message to al the black players aspiring to or already playing the game that you are able to achieve anything.
“It’s not about where you come from or your background because Richard started playing rugby in our backyard in Marlborough and he rose to be one of the greatest and I only followed after seeing his achievements.
“It was an interesting challenge because those days most of the blacks in Zimbabwe were after the traditional sports like football but my brother rose to be the first black Zimbabwean to play for the national side and at the (1987) World Cup.
“He made so much an impact at that World Cup because he knew that it was not just about taking part at the tournament but it was showtime as well.
“The tries he scored at the tournament said a lot about him and they made a lasting statement that 25 years on he has been honoured.
“I dedicate this award to my mother Freda Tsimba who allowed us to venture into the game,” said Kennedy.
Former Sables coach and forward Alex Nicholls is one of the players who played alongside both Kennedy and Richard with the likes of current Sables coach Brandon Dawson, Honeywell Nguruve, Elimon Chimbima, Andy Ferreira and Zivanai Dzinomurumbi.
Nicholls also went on to coach Kennedy at Old Hararians and he still remembers how the Tsimba brothers contributed to the game not only in Zimbabwe but the world over.
“Richard was highly regarded especially following his great performance at the 1987 World Cup in Australia where the French rated him highly and Kenny followed his brother’s footsteps and surely achieved more playing for Bath (in England) and also in South Africa.
“Surely, had he not played for Zimbabwe before, Kennedy would have literary walked into the Springboks side, he won several top accolades in South Africa and this award is well deserved for the brothers.
“This goes on to show the potential Zimbabwe has in producing talent and if a small country like us has two players in the Hall of Fame compared to eight from South Africa then it says a lot about Zimbabwe rugby.
“But it’s so sad that while our game is on the rise, getting such acknowledgement, the corporates and the Government are not doing enough to compliment the efforts of the Africa champions.
“Rugby needs that support if we are to keep producing such talent and this just goes on to reiterate the quality of players we produce,” said Nicholls.
At the moment Kennedy is involved in coaching with his voluntary organisation called Rugby Without Borders in South Africa but he says he would jump at any opportunity if given a chance to come and work with Zimbabwe rugby.
“It is also good to note that Zimbabwe won the Africa Cup and this shows that the game is on an upward trend and is in good health.
“At the ceremony I got a chance to speak to the IRB vice-president (Oregan Hoskins) who indicated that they have plans for South Africa to help Zimbabwe regain their status on the global scale.
“The last time I was called back to Zimbabwe was in 2009 when the Cheetahs qualified for the Sevens World Cup but I had problems with my passport.
“I would have loved to finish my playing career on a high note but that did not happen and I was so upset.”
However, Kennedy feels that the induction would not mean anything to his family if he does not present it to the Union that gave birth to the Tsimba brothers and he expects to do so early December.
Kennedy last featured for the Sables in 1999 with four Sables caps to his name, while his brother only played for the Sables for four years.
In 1997 Kennedy’s career took him to the UK, where he enjoyed a brief spell at Bath as understudy to RWC 2003 winner Mike Catt.
He played Super Rugby for the Bulls, producing many stellar performances.
But the dazzling flyhalf reserved his best rugby for the Bloemfontein-based Cheetahs, breaking a Free State record for the most points scored in a season (228), a feat which earned him the Currie Cup Player of the Year award in 2002.
He received the same honour again in 2008.
The “King of Bloemfontein” — as he was affectionately known — holds the South African record for fastest 1 000 points in first class history.
IRB vice-chairperson Hoskins said: “The Tsimba brothers have left an indelible mark on rugby in Southern Africa.
“They are (black) pioneers of the game who will be remembered by generations to come.
“It is fitting that they will be captured in rugby’s most famous place for memory, the IRB Hall of Fame.”

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