Sibanda spells out vision for Zim rugby Gerald Sibanda

Tinashe Kusema

GERALD Sibanda says his decision to run for the Zimbabwe Rugby Union presidency is a “calling” and hopes to usher in a new era in the sport. 

The Zimbabwe Rugby Union elections will be held this Saturday, with the nomination deadline having elapsed yesterday. 

However, Sibanda alongside current president, Aaron Jani, had already come out in the open to declare their candidacy. 

The duo of Gilbert Nyamutsamba and ZRU vice-president North Losson Mtongwiza are also said to be interested in the post. 

Sibanda is, of course, no stranger to the sport as he played semi and professional rugby in South Africa, Scotland, and Romania, among other countries. 

He is widely celebrated in international sevens rugby, after a decorated world sevens career between 2007 and 2012. 

With the Zimbabwe Cheetahs team, he won Bowl and Shield trophies, as well as individual accolades as Zimbabwe’s top try scorer at the 2009 Sevens Rugby World Cup in Dubai. 

The 37-year-old has been the busiest of the presidential aspirants after having openly declared and released his manifesto at a glitzy function in the capital last week. 

The 11-page document, which he has coined “a new era for Zimbabwe Rugby” details the Real Betis Zimbabwe director’s vision to bring the sport to its former glory, replicating the successes and standards set by the ZRU boards of 1987 and 1991. 

Among the major achievements of the two administrations was taking the country to the Rugby World Cups of 1987 and 1991 co-hosted by New Zealand and Australia; and by England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland, and France, respectively. 

“My dream is to emulate and replicate the boards of 1987 and 1991, and take us back to the World Cup,” said Sibanda. 

“Should I be elected into office, my set goals will be to grow the game (both men and women), bring back first-class international rugby, establish a professional domestic league, and unlock investment. 

“Grassroot development and taking us back to the Rugby World Cup will also be among the top targets . . .”

The manifesto covers an array of issues, with the main one being Sibanda and his administration’s five-tier approach. 

The five-tier approach will see the union right at the top, but they will also take ownership of the national league, local provincial league, grassroots programmes, and the Zimbabwe Rugby Foundation (ZRF). 

“The Zimbabwe Rugby Foundation stands as a beacon of philanthropy, dedicated to nurturing the essence of rugby within Zimbabwe,” reads the manifesto. 

“Its noble mission revolves around fostering talent among the youth, encompassing both boys and girls, with a strong emphasis on promoting wellness and safety.

“Through expert coaching and referee guidelines, along with the establishment of pathways to excellence, the ZRF is steadfast in its commitment to cultivating a legacy of sporting brilliance.” 

The foundation seeks to pay homage to former players and legends of the sport in Zimbabwe.

Sibanda hopes to establish a high-performance centre that will not only cater for rugby, but other sports as well. 

This is categorised under infrastructure development, with the goal being to give the union and sports ownership of their assets.

Plans are also afoot to develop a place capable of hosting a 15 000-seat stadium and introduce a franchise or academy (Goshawks) to retain local players by offering them educational opportunities while playing rugby. 

Women are expected to play a bigger role under this vision, as evidenced by Sibanda’s decision to elect Abigail Mnikwa as his running mate. 

Mnikwa is no stranger to rugby administration as she has been with the Zimbabwe rugby structures for years, and even held multiple roles outside the country.

She was on the Rugby Africa Women advisory committee’s subcommittee for leadership, training, and conferences, in addition to being a former board member. 

Now, she will be running for the vice-president’s seat.

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