The Harare Province Paramount Garments Invitational tournament is set to start on August 20 to September 10 this year.
Originally earmarked to be a provincial tournament, the organisers seem to have taken the competitiveness route as the dominant sides in both the women’s and men’s divisions have been included on the roster.
This decision, as seemingly straightforward as it is, has drawn a lot of controversy, especially in the women’s division with regards to why only FS Raiders is the only club that is included among provincial sides.
Harare Province Secretary Shingi Vere said that they went for competitiveness and not just numbers.
Vere said, “FS Raiders are strong enough to compete against provinces. If anyone sees the kind of scorelines FS Raiders have been posting and the calibre of players that they have we cannot beat around the bush and try to disband them that will unfortunately not serve anyone.
It’s up to everyone else to put together stronger teams that can give them competition.
“To be frank every other team has got to step up. Even in the men’s division, outside of Old Georgians, Old Hararians and Harare Sports Club all the other teams were being given basketball scores so we shouldn’t beat around the bush, we cannot play rugby for the sake of playing rugby we have to be competitive as well.”
However, one of the women’s rugby pioneers Lindiwe Munerenyu registered her concerns about the inclusion of only one team and how disheartening it is for other teams.
She said, “Zimbabwe women’s rugby has demonstrated potential to be a powerhouse in Africa. It has held its own against the best in the continent and proudly raised the national flag. Sadly potential is not good enough until and unless there is a concerted effort from the players, clubs and national team to address some governance issues that might throttle development.
“There is one team which seemingly is dominating women’s rugby at tournaments and caps in the national team. Talented players are trekking to this team, thereby bolstering it at the expense of other teams who will be weakened by the exodus. The other teams are struggling and lacking a competitive edge that is the driving force behind the development of players and the game itself.
“By extension, this gives an unfair advantage to this team during competitions as they have become massively dominant.
“This same team also dominates the calls to the national team thereby depriving those in weaker teams an opportunity to get exposure and develop.
“Inadvertently, this stunts growth of women’s rugby development in Zimbabwe. Furthermore, it threatens the future of players’ ability to reach their fullest potential as opportunities to play at national and international arenas will be scarce.”
She insinuated that even if it was any other club aside from FS Raiders she would still not have agreed with the decision to add only one club.
She also added, “This has come to light with the introduction of provincial teams which, ordinarily, should be comprised of talent from clubs in the respective provinces.
“Curiously, a decision has been made for one club to compete at provincial level, outside the provincial team. Structurally, this is irregular. The same team competed in South Africa but under the banner of the national team.
“Furthermore, this team’s technical department is also dominant at the national team level. In that regard, the selection process is likely to be compromised.”
Munerenyu also said that there is a risk of losing current talented players from other teams because it would seem as if they are meant to simply train that one team which is considered competitive.
She said, “There is a risk that a generation of women’s rugby players that has worked hard to prove its mettle, might fall on the wayside and disappear from the arena unnoticed.
“It will be a travesty to lose latent talent that isn’t granted a fair playing field to showcase their gift. These retrogressive dynamics need to be arrested for the good of women’s rugby in Zimbabwe.
“The need for stewards: to foster a fair environment that builds equity in our local teams; merited rewards’ and a culture of discipline into teams cannot be overemphasised.”
With the differences in opinion, it is healthy to consider every point of view going forward. Only honest and non-toxic conversations will make the sport go forward.