Tadious Manyepo Sports Reporter
OLD Georgians centre, Lindiwe Munerenyu, is overwhelmed and can’t help shedding tears as she strolls towards the podium to receive the league’s best backliner’s award for 2019.
It’s a fitting honour for a player who put her body on the line, the entire season, top-scoring to help them lift the league title, without defeat.
Since making her top-flight debut, Munerenyu has also been a key member of the Lady Cheetahs and Lady Sables.
Yet, she would have found herself playing football, or even basketball if Eaglesvale sports director, and former Sables coach Cyprian “Supa” Mandenge, had not introduced female rugby at this learning institution around 2012.
“Probably, I would have pursued field athletics, maybe basketball or even football, since I have always been athletic,” said Munerenyu.
“Rugby is something I never thought I would play, especially given that it used to be a preserve for men.
“My family is still surprised as to how I ended up venturing into this game.
“I just told myself that I was going to try my hand in the sport when Mandenge (Cyprian) introduced it around 2012 at Eaglesvale School where I was enrolled.”
While most of her teammates at school followed other paths, after school, Munerenyu decided to pursue the sport.
“But, there was nowhere to go. I wouldn’t walk into any team and claim that I was a good player,’’ she said.
‘‘Of course, I really loved and still love the game but, as a woman, there were few opportunities around.”
Then, studying at a local university, Munerenyu felt well equipped to form her own rugby academy, just to play the game.
The rugby fraternity, much to her surprise, embraced the project.
“I got so much support and I enjoyed it. It was hard at first but, as time moved on, we started to get some recognition.”
That was when she approached former Old Georgians director of rugby and coach, Grant Mitchell, with an idea of introducing a ladies side at the club.
Mitchell said from that point, he knew Munerenyu would scale dizzy heights in her career.
“Lindiwe (Munerenyu) approached me when I was still the director of rugby at Old Georgians in October 2017 with the idea of starting up a ladies rugby section at Old Georgians,” recalls Mitchell.
“It was great timing as her ideas were aligned to our vision of growth.
‘‘We had just set up our Under-21 structures and we were in the process of developing the ladies section.
“In January 2018, we had our first intake of ladies and, alongside the rugby club committee, Lindiwe drove the recruitment process to grow the section.
‘‘She was in search of being a part of a club programme that was progressive, and inclusive, and her passion to grow ladies rugby was evident.
“Not only was she a club administrator but she also proved to be a good player.
‘‘Lindiwe was a part of the first ever Old Georgians ladies rugby team that played an historic match against Harare Sports Club ladies on Friday 11th May 2018 on a cold winter night under coach, Sykes Sibanda, which was captained by Michelle Chavundura.”
Mandenge said Munerenyu showed great interest in the sport from the start and he is not surprised the player is making waves in the league.
“Lindiwe was a complete athlete at school. She was a genuine all-rounder,” said Mandenge.
“So, when we introduced girls’ rugby in 2012, or thereabout, she was one of the girls that l approached and she became a leader as she recruited other girls.
‘‘We were very fortunate to have one of the top coaches to be coaching the team, Abigail Kawonza, and teachers who loved rugby, including Tabhetha Ntini and Joan Murembwe.
“I was happy to see her continuing with rugby after she finished school and also making the Zimbabwe ladies team.”