Tsimba still keen to play for SA

2002-08-14 10:43

Bloemfontein - The Free State Stadium is adorned with life-size images and dozens of photographs of local star, flyhalf Kennedy Tsimba, clad in the orange and white of the Cheetahs.

But despite his prodigious talent there is little chance of his wearing the green and gold.

The Zimbabwean's dream of representing South Africa has been crushed by the International Rugby Board's (IRB) decision to put a stop to players representing their adopted countries after already playing for their country of birth.

Tsimba represented Zimbabwe on three occasions but admits he does not regret his decision to play in Zimbabwe's green and white hoops.

"If I had not played when I was selected then I may not have got as far as I have," Tsimba said.

Tsimba will not be the first player to switch allegiance and, according to him, will not be the last. The Tongan, Samoan, Australian and New Zealand national teams are so interspersed with mixed nationalities that it is almost impossible to discern who was born where.

Perhaps the greatest player to don the All Black jersey, Jonah Lomu, was born in Tonga yet has gone on to play 61 tests for New Zealand.

"If I could afford a big lawyer like that Cochrane guy in America then maybe I can tackle the IRB," joked Tsimba about his predicament after a Cheetahs practice on Tuesday.

"There is precedence for players switching allegiance play for another team and I feel that the IRB is not being fair. I stopped playing for Zimbabwe long ago to try play by the rules but they changed it in 2000 and I have missed out while other players are still bending the rules."

Tsimba's national exclusion could be due to the fact that the South African Rugby Football Association pressed for the rule change in 2000 and are now reluctant to ask for a reversal on the Zimbabwean's half.

Tsimba is permitted to represent a Super 12 outfit but has not been used due to Sarfu's decision to only select players eligible to play for their country to compete in the event, robbing the world of one of the best talents to emerge in recent years.

"I would love to play Super 12 rugby and the challenge would be tremendous. But the directive for the Super 12 coaches is to use players that are eligible to represent South Africa.

"There is still a flicker of hope for me to play for the Springboks. Pete Haymans of the Players Union here in South Africa is taking my case to the IRB so I'm not ruling anything out.

Tsimba admits to feeling let down that he cannot parade his skills at a higher level.

"It's quite disappointing especially because I've been playing here for a number of years now.

"It's depressing to see guys I've played with move on to the next level while I have not.

But Tsimba is philosophical. "Such is life, you know"

Tsimba's love for rugby started 19 years ago, when as a 8-year old boy he started playing at Ruzwai Primary School in Harare before moving onto Prince Edward High School.

Tsimba was almost lost to South African rugby for good, when after school he was offered a contract to play for Bath in England. But thankfully for the Cheetahs and the legion of his fans around South Africa Tsimba hated the cold, wet weather and opted for a move south.

"Ray Mordt influenced my decision to move to South Africa and I joined the Cheetahs chiefly because of the way they played rugby and I prefer living in a small town and Bloemfontein is similar to Harare.

The silky-skilled flyhalf honed his game on the great attacking players of the past 30 years and claims that watching old tapes boosted his talent.

"My kicking skills stem from watching rugby from the 1970's. Players like Welsh flyhalf Phil Bennett definitely influenced my game.

"And guys like David Campese and Zinzan Brooke are players that come around once in a lifetime so they really played a huge part in my game.

Tsimba admits to being tempted to move to a bigger union but feels money is not an issue.

"There is so much pressure to perform because of the money.

"For me, whatever money I could get I just multiply it according to the Zimbabwe dollar, and then it easily reaches a million.

The Cheetahs are the only team to benefit from Tsimba thus far and must be commended on giving the flyhalf a chance while neither Super 12 franchises nor Sarfu are willing to even make an effort on his behalf.