Black Rhinos' steady rise

HARARE - If there was an award for the most improved team in the just-ended Zimbabwe Volleyball National League, it would certainly have gone to army side Black Rhinos whose rise from a bottom table to a top table team has been swift.

Rhinos coach Elia Munosunama has transformed a once ordinary army side into a potential title winning team.

In 2017, Chipembere amassed a meagre three points from 10 matches, an unimpressive 1-9 win-loss ratio, winning just five sets and losing a whopping 27 sets.

For their troubles, they were sixth out of the six teams in the league.

Black Rhinos, realising how understaffed they were, recruited some young blood from the vast Zimbabwean talent in the mould of former Citizens, Harare City wing spiker Tatenda Masawi, middle blocker Tatenda Karuma, utility player Lucian Dzapasi, setter Allan Masiiwa, wing spiker Simbarashe Jena and utility player Bruce “Dread” Paguti.

The inclusion of a more hungry and energetic group of players was just the antidote Chipembere needed to inject some ambition into their performances.

Rejuvenated and ably led by veterans team captain Darrel “Military Touch” Bangajena, Charles “Suke” Dotito and Collins “Leko” Mafanise, the army side reached their first major final, the 2018 Zimbabwe Volleyball Association Open Tournament in March this year which they lost to UZ Wolves in a five set thriller.

The masterstroke however, was how they switched the veterans’ roles, switching them to the more mentally demanding playing positions, setting and defensive specialists.

The army side never stopped there as they roped in former Harare City women’s coach Leadme Muhlohla and Neil Chamisa to add to the technical team.

Assistant Coach Vengai Nyaude, who retired from playing last year, also weighed in with his vast experience on the army side technical bench.

A slow start in the 2018 ZVA National League meant that they fell to fourth in one disastrous weekend in Bulawayo at White City Stadium as they lost to Support Unit, UZ Wolves and Harare City in straight sets.

They picked and dusted themselves up in the later stages of the first round to cement the fourth slot.

Spirited performances in the second round included two five-set thrillers which they succumbed to Harare City and UZ Wolves in a single day, and a 3-2  sweet avenging win over defending champions Support Unit.

The performance has assured them a place in next year’s National League as they finished  fourth with 21 points, a decent 7-6 win-loss ratio and 27-25 sets won-lost.

Veteran coach Munosunama now boasts of an ambitious, young, technically and tactically gifted team which will no doubt be gunning for the top spot next season.


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