Editorial Comment: Chance for ZRU to showcase rugby talent, Zim hospitality The Zimbabwe Under-20 rugby team. - File Picture.

AS the African Rugby Under-20 tournament, better known as the Barthes Trophy, bursts into life at the Harare Sports Club this afternoon, Zimbabwe will come under the spotlight both for its hosting capacity and the talent that is widely acknowledged to be abundant in this country.

While some nations may have pulled out from the competition for their varying reasons, it has not taken the glow out of this important tournament where the next generation of senior rugby team players will be on show.

The Junior Sables have twice conquered Africa when winning the Barthes Trophy in 2022 and 2023 in tournaments staged in Kenya.

Now Zimbabwe have the added advantage of taking a crack at a third successive title on home soil.

It is a big opportunity for the Zimbabwe Rugby Union to showcase the country’s capacity to host major international sporting events.

The ZRU’s counterparts at Zimbabwe Cricket have already shown what the country can offer when they successfully staged the World Cup qualifiers in Harare and Bulawayo last year.

Any chance to be accorded staging rights by an international federation, in this case Africa Rugby, is a major show of confidence on a country and a welcome development that presents the host nation with an opportunity to refurbish its facilities.

It is also a huge opportunity to maximise on sports tourism as the visiting players, coaches, technical officials, administrators, media, and spectators, will want to sample what Zimbabwe has to offer.

In between their games, the visiting teams can tour the majestic Victoria Falls, Nyanga, Kariba, Great Zimbabwe monument, Chinhoyi caves, Domboshawa and Vumba to name just but a few.

Zimbabwe has built a reputation for its hospitality, fair weather and friendly people.

With the Barthes Trophy now our doorsteps, rugby fans in particular and sporting enthusiasts in general, must converge on Harare Sports Club from today until April 28 and rally behind this emerging crop of talented players in their quest for glory.

There were commendable crowds when the Cricket World Cup qualifiers came to town.

Then as now, Harare Sports Club is the venue for the Barthes Trophy where the national Under-20 team will battle it out against Tunisia, Namibia and Kenya for the mantle of African champions.

The winners will also go on to represent the African continent at the World Junior Trophy in Scotland in July.

Coach Shaun De Souza and his players deserve everyone’s support and reports by ZRU chief executive officer Sifiso Made earlier this week that government, the corporate world and the domestic clubs had come together to ensure the tournament will be a success, made some interesting reading.

It highlights what Zimbabweans can do if everyone unites for the cause of the motherland.

Now that the organisers seem to have done their part, it is up to the coach and his players to turn the privilege of playing at home into positive pressure and deliver the title before their parents, brothers, sisters, friends, relatives and supporters.

After all, previous Barthes tournaments have been a launch pad into professional rugby for some of the Junior Sables’ stars.

It has been a platform where such stars like Brendan Marume, Edward Sigauke, Tawanda Matipano, Carlos Matematema and Shingi Manyarara were born.

Most of them have since graduated into the senior rugby side with Manyarara and Sigauke now plying their trade at Racing 97 and the Sharks in France and South Africa respectively while the trio of Matematema, Marume and Matipano have already made their debuts for Zimbabwe’s Sables.

For the ZRU, the Barthes Trophy marks the start of a crucial fortnight for the development of rugby in the country.

This is because hard on the heels of the Barthes Trophy will come the Mwana Schools festival which will also have an international flavour to it when the competition begins at Prince Edward on April 28.

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