By Tinashe Kusema
Zimbabwean rugby upstart Cleopas Kundiona insists that he is “nowhere near” being as good as countryman Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira, but is flattered by the comparisons to the Springbok legend.
“There is only one Beast, the guy is just special like that,” said Kundiona.
“I grew up watching him on TV, and can only hope to be as great and as talented as he is one day.
“Despite the comparisons, so far I am nowhere near his level.”
Kundiona last week sealed a dream move from Raiders to the Sharks Rugby franchise, which according to the 20-year-old’s handlers at Athletes Sports Management, will be a junior contract for the Currie Cup. However, a Super Rugby contract remains the ultimate goal, with talks expected to resume later in the year upon the completion of both the on-going SuperSport Rugby Challenge and the Currie Cup.
“We have agreed on the terms, what’s left is to fly to Durban to complete the formalities,” said Gerald Sibanda, founder and director of Athletes Sports Management. “The Sharks are looking at him as a long term investment, but the initial contract will be for the Currie Cup. We will discuss the Super Rugby contract by October. For now, he will join the Sharks during the early weeks of June as soon as the Zimbabwe Academy side finish the SuperSport Challenge,” Sibanda said.
As news of Kundiona’s big move started to filter, many had already started drawing up comparisons between the Zimbabwe Academy prop and Mtawarira, who is also on the Sharks’ books. The two forwards share a similar stature, with Mtawarira 1.83 meters tall and weighing roughly 116kgs, while Kundiona is 120 kgs and also 1.83 meters tall.
However, it is Mtawarira’s huge profile at the Sharks franchise — and South African rugby as a whole — that has left Kundiona looking forward to this new challenge with both “dread and excitement’’. Mtawarira is arguably one of the most recognizable and followed players in South African rugby, with over 109 caps for the Springboks and a record breaking 157 Super Rugby caps for the Sharks.
“This move was the furthest thing from my mind when I arrived in South Africa with the Zimbabwe Academy a few weeks ago.“
But it is something that I have always dreamt and prayed about and now that it has come true, I am just thankful,” Kundiona said. The prospects of playing alongside his idol have not escaped Kundiona’s thoughts but he is not pressuring himself into trying to achieve that dream.
“I’m going to take it one day at a time.
“For now, I am just looking forward to meeting up with the team and starting my time there on a positive note.
“I’m yet to meet the Beast, and have only seen him on TV, so I am also looking forward to that and learning as much as I can from him.’’ Whether Kundiona will live up to the hype that has followed his earlier career remains to be seen but after getting his first break, the Sables forward has every reason to dream on.
Toyota Free State XV 66-10 Zimbabwe Academy. Sunday Mail