Murehwa's gift to Zim rugby

HARARE - From humble beginnings of rural life in Murehwa, to touring Europe as a teenager, and then becoming Zimbabwe’s first black rugby coach, Godwin Murambiwa is one man who believes he belongs to both worlds.

Like many young black Zimbabweans of his generation, heading cattle and gathering wild fruit was his first preoccupation.

This was long before Murambiwa knew about the sport that would one day become the centre of his life.

“I lived with my grandmother for most of my childhood after my mother had left to train as a nurse in the Diaspora,” Murambiwa tells the Daily News.

“I’m might look snobbish now but ndaitorima nekusunga mombe (I would farm and head cattle). Those things make you a better man, I have had the best of both words. Here was a young man who went to Wales, met the mayor of Cardiff and met the mayor of Swansea.

“But you never forget where you come from.”

Murambiwa was educated Macheke Primary School and later Marondera High School.

It was at Marondera where the seed of rugby would be sown in him.

At 16, Murambiwa was already representing the school’s first team. His nickname, Jaws, has roots at Marondera. 

“I came late for rugby training because I’d been watching the famous 1975 film, and the name of the movie just stuck,” he says.

His rugby career continued to take shape when he enrolled at Prince Edward School as a lower-six student in 1986 on a scholarship.

Jaws was instant hit at PE, going on to make the first XV, the Tigers, in his first year there and touring England, Ireland and Wales.

He would soon earn Zimbabwe Under-20 and Under-21 caps, rubbing shoulders with such top players as Bedford Chimbima and Euan Macmillan, who both later represented Zimbabwe at the 1991 World Cup.

Murambiwa’s playing days were over after fracturing both his knees, in an accident that gave birth to his coaching career.

“After representing Zim at Under-21 level, I called it quits and (black Briton) Colin Osborne (development coach stationed in Zimbabwe) insisted I do my coaching courses instead of quitting. I was just in so much pain all the time I couldn’t continue playing.

“There weren’t plenty blacks involved in coaching and I sort of said ‘well why not’.”

Taking the Under-19s to four world championships ranks as one of his proudest achievements to date.

The former Tigers fullback also holds the distinction of being the only local coach to have beaten perennial rivals Namibia at Under-18, 19, 21 and Sables level.

“I am humbled by the fact that such a record can be attributed to a simple boy from nowhere in the history books of our great country,” he says.

Having successfully coached club side Old Hararians, Murambiwa was handed the reins of Zimbabwe, taking charge of the Sables between 2001 and 2003.

Since then, he has taken a liking to coaching juniors.

“I think back then when I quit in 2003, we had failed to qualify for the World Cup so they were plenty of accusations, tribalism, all sorts of things,” Murambiwa recalls.

“So I just felt that I wasn’t bigger than the game. I think that’s when the slide for Zim started. They were trying times. A lot of white guys where pulling out.”

Murambiwa, however, believes Zimbabwe made huge strides in rugby in the past, before taking few steps back thereafter.

“When I started coaching we had players good enough to play for England,” he says.

“At the turn of the millennium, I coached players like Karl Mudzamba and Ian Noble, who was playing in the Vodacom Cup.

“So in as far as a country we have gone backwards.  We have not played enough rugby. We haven’t had enough exposure. The Sables are playing two internationals a year. That is sinful! We can’t expect to beat Namibia. Our problems are of a technical nature.

“From a continuity perspective we do have the players, the systems are there. But we are not playing rugby at the right time with the right people.”

Away from rugby, Murambiwa has been practising martial arts since 1982.

The accredited International Rugby Board Coach Educator holds a Goda in Shorin Ryu karate, Nidan in Goju Ryu karate as a well as a Nida in Aiki-jujutsu.

Comments (3)

If we ever have a sporting hall of fame in zim, that man among a couple others would belong handsomely in it. He is one of the most pleasant and humble people i have ever met. More of the same, jaws!!!

thabo - 15 February 2014

Absolutely amazing and wonderful character. I truly adore Jaws. May God bless Jaws. Been a blessing knowing him for many years!

"Jerry Maguire" - 16 February 2014

Keep up the selfless work Jaws. Great humility which generally lacks in our local rugby setup. May you continue to impart rugby knowledge to the youth of this country. Cheers

Distant Watcher - 16 February 2014

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