Old Mutual is delighted to once again partner with the Zimbabwe Rugby Union in support of rugby development in Zimbabwe.
Rugby is deeply entrenched in Zimbabwe and is arguably one of the sporting disciplines where we hold a comparative advantage over most of the countries on the continent.
Historically, Zimbabwe has always enjoyed a strong schools’ base that naturally fed into the senior national teams, resulting in the Sables, as the national team is known, developing into a formidable force on the international scene.
The Zimbabwe team has participated in rugby activities since the late 19th century with international matches being played as early as 1910.
The national team had a long association with touring British Isles teams, who would regularly play matches against them in their tours of South Africa.
The earliest tour was in 1910 when Zimbabwe was known as Southern Rhodesia.
The side has also played New Zealand on several occasions, the first being in the late 1920s.
Worth noting is the 1960 match against New Zealand that was played on 2 July at Glamis Park, where the then Southern Rhodesia beat the All Blacks 29-14.
In 1970 Rhodesia played New Zealand for the last time on 27 July, losing 14 to 27.
The final record against the All Blacks was an impressive Played 5, won 1 drawn 1 and lost 3.
As you are aware, the All Blacks are considered the team to beat in international rugby and our history about them demonstrates the potential that is inherent among our players.
I have taken liberty to highlight what has been achieved before so that you may fully contextualise the motive behind Old Mutual’s investment in rugby.
Perhaps the dip in performance indicates that most of the black majority were previously excluded from rugby. Our sponsorship aims to therefore support the previously marginalised majority.
Old Mutual Zimbabwe’s relationship with rugby started in 2014, when, together with the Zimbabwe Rugby Union, we launched the Old Mutual Rugby Development Programme and the Old Mutual National Schools Select Rugby Sponsorship in 2014.
The Old Mutual Development Programme started at four centres in 2014 and expanded to nine centres and 16 communities in 2015, with over 50 schools participating.
An estimated 2,500 boys and girls participated in the programme in 2015, compared to 1,600 in 2014.
They were coached and trained by 14 dedicated coaches countrywide who among them conducted 7,300 training sessions last season.
The coaches all hold at least World Rugby Level 1, Rugby ready; Laws of the game and First Aid certificates and are paid monthly stipends through our funding to the program.
The Old Mutual Community Program funding also provides transport allowances, team and individual prizes for tournaments held, rugby balls, cones, ruck shields, tackling bags, and ball bags for all the centres in order for them to train and participate in Community and Inter-Community tournaments and festivals.
I am pleased to inform you that the number of communities this year will increase to 20, to include Chiredzi/Masvingo, Hwange, Chinhoyi and three more high density areas in and just outside Harare and Bulawayo.
Chiredzi alone has over 200 schools representing a potential 3,000 new rugby boys and girls.
Another exciting development this year is the inclusion of Tag Rugby in our sponsorship. This covers boys and girls in the six to 12 years old age group.
Prior to this development, our sponsorship catered for players in the 12-19 years age range.
Through our sponsorship in 2016, Tag rugby is expected to benefit an additional 4,000 boys and girls, 78 clubs or schools and will involve 78 volunteers.
The program, which is managed by the Tag Rugby Trust, has a national footprint covering the following centres: Harare, Bulawayo, Victoria Falls, Hwange, Matopos, Esigodini, Marondera, Hwedza, Mutare, Kwekwe, Gweru and Kariba.
Ladies and gentlemen, Old Mutual believes in investing in the future of our country, represented by the boys and girls covered by our sponsorship.
Earlier this year Old Mutual was an Associate Sponsor for the Super Rugby Tour by the Vodacom Bulls and Toyota Cheetahs.
During this tour, four coaching clinics were conducted by the Bulls in Victoria Falls and Harare, with the Cheetahs holding another in Victoria Falls after the historic match.
We believe the coaching clinics left a lasting impression among players and their coaches alike.
As a natural progression of our involvement in junior rugby, I’m pleased to inform you that Old Mutual will be the official sponsor of the Under 20 Junior Sables and the World Rugby Under 20 Trophy 2016 that is scheduled for Harare from 19 April to 1 May.
In addition to Zimbabwe, seven international teams will participate in this tournament. These are are:
- Hong Kong
This is just an insight into what we are doing for rugby in Zimbabwe. We believe the future is bright and our commitment to the sport will open doors of opportunity to thousands of boys and girls.
Finally, I wish to thank Honourable Makhosini Hlongwane for his encouragement, support and enthusiasm. I also want to register our appreciation to the tremendous work being done by the Zimbabwe Rugby Union and Tag Rugby Trust in promoting rugby in Zimbabwe.
Together, we will do great things.
Issued at Harare on 25 February 2016 by Jonas Mushosho – Group Chief Executive Office, Old Mutual Zimbabwe