Middleton likens Hunduza to icon Williams

HARARE - Zimbabwe Rugby Union (ZRU) director of rugby Liam Middleton, who dabbles as the national Sevens side coach, has likened rising sensation Stephan Hunduza to the legendary Welsh winger Shane Williams and believes the new Cheetahs star is in prime position to launch a successful career. 

The Mbare Academy protégée, who plays scrumhalf at Sevens, was outstanding for Zimbabwe during last weekend’s Hong Kong leg of the IRB World Sevens Series, where the African side’s dream of gaining core member status went up in smoke after losing 17-12 to Italy in the quarter-finals of the qualification tournament in sudden death.

The Zimbabweans had earlier in the tournament hammered Barbados and Chile on Friday with scores reaching the 40-mark before winding up the group stages with a hard-fought 14-5 win over Russia the following day.

Harare Sports Club speedster Hunduza, who was making his debut on the IRB Sevens circuit, was in blistering form especially in the pool games, scoring a total six tries in the tournament.

Losing to Italy in the quarter-finals meant Zimbabwe will have to wait until next year to have another shot at qualification.

“I was very pleased with the team’s performances, we played great Sevens through the pool games,” Middleton told the Daily News yesterday.

“To lose the quarter-final was heart-breaking, but that is what can happen in Sevens.”

Turning to Hunduza, whose impressive showing saw him being named in the qualifying tournament’s Dream Team, Middleton praised the diminutive former Churchill schoolboy for his enormous qualities and compared him to Wales record try scorer Shane Williams.

“Stavo was sublime in his debut IRB tournament,” said Middleton. “It was his debut in international Sevens tournament and I was very pleased to hand him that.

“He is underrated here in Zimbabwe, but I watched him train at Old Georgians last year and I was convinced he will do well in international Sevens. The ZRU must be given credit for that.

“He has good pace and good vision when carrying the ball, and his defence is outstanding for a guy of his height.

“In the quarter-finals, the pressure of playing in a knockout game got to his mind, but that’s experience he has to go through and he will be stronger in future.  We had quite a few guys playing in the quarter-finals of a major tournament for the first time, and they will learn from that experience.”

Hunduza, who plays wing at Fifteens and was the Lion Lager National Rugby League top try-scorer in the last two seasons, is also an exciting prospect in the main version of the game and is one of several red-hot backline players on the radar of selectors ahead of 2015 World Cup Qualifiers in June. 

“I will liken him (Hunduza) to Shane Williams, the Welsh and British Lions winger, who is of the same height. His pace will only get better, and he defends brilliantly. To defend well and finish well as he do, for me that’s the hallmarks of a good international winger. He has potential to mimic Shane Williams.”

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