How Mhende overcame gruesome injury

HARARE - Miracles happen to those who believe and salvation comes to those who want to be saved.

This is particularly true for Zimbabwe rugby star Tafadzwa Mhende, who has managed to resurrect his career despite a gruesome leg injury.

Back in 2010, the youthful centre suffered a career-threatening injury during a Cheetahs match at the Castle Sevens in Zambia.

With the match being screened live on SuperSport, it took the medics and ambulance personnel over 15 minutes to stabilise Mhende and transport him to the hospital.

Mhende had collided with an opponent and broke his tibia and fibula bones in his right leg, leaving the sock he was wearing to hold his limb together.

By definition, the tibia and fibula are the two long bones in the lower leg. The tibia is the bone that forms the shin and is the larger of the two lower-leg bones. 

It often takes three to six months for the breaks in the tibia and fibula bones to heal. Until the bones fully heal, the patient’s leg and ankle cannot be stressed or worked too hard. 

Advancing activity too soon before the tibia and fibula bones are healed can jeopardise the repair and ultimately bone healing.

Ex-Cheaters’ manager Bruce Hobson described Mhende’s injury as the worst he had seen during his many years in the game.

“This was the worst injury I have had to deal with in my involvement with the Sevens since 2003,” Hobson said.

“Taffy has been a wonderful servant of Zimbabwe Sevens Rugby. He is part of the Cheetahs family…after his dreadful injury…it was my obligation to ensure that he would be able to regain full use of his leg again. He was a great asset who tackled well and was an exciting runner.”

Despite all this, Mhende defied the odds and made a memorable comeback at the end of 2011 for his club side Harare Sports Club (HSC).

“I believe in miracles and I’m a living testimony. I did not believe I would be able to play again but thank God, here I am playing,” Mhende tells the Daily News on Sunday.

“It was great just to be able to walk without limping as some people had ruled me out. Being able to play again was a blessing considering the nature of the injury.”

With the prospects of getting back to play looking bleak, the 35-year-old’s passion for the game never left him as he started helping out with the odd coaching jobs in the discomfort of the career-threatening injury. 

That would, however, be his long walk to recovery and a move that guided him back to competing again.

“I started helping out with coaching the second team at HSC and during those training sessions you would want to demonstrate something and one thing led to the other,” he says.

“I started training with the first team but I wasn’t playing. After that season I told myself I was going to play in the coming season but I needed to go to the gym before attempting any comeback.

“I spent the first half of the season (2015) in the gym and didn’t play any games. I then joined the guys during the second half of the season.

“That same year, we won the league and I was blessed to wear the Sables Jersey again in November for the Cup of Nations tournament in Hong Kong.”

There were some doubts in Mhende’s mind as he never imagined he would play rugby again let alone don the Sables’ green and white hoops.

“For sure, it affected me because I could not play my favourite game. I thought I wouldn’t be able to play rugby at a high level but God willing, I’m representing Zimbabwe again,” he says.

“After the injury, I had to stay positive and the rest sorted itself out.”

Former Sables coach Cyprian Mandenge saw the potential and talent in the speedster and did not hesitate to recall him to the national team.

“Supa (Mandenge) was actually the one who selected me to represent Zimbabwe in 2015 and in 2016 he had included me in his plans but I had to let him down because of work commitments,” he said.

Mandenge is full of admiration of the way Mhende was able to overcome the terrible injury.

“I was heartbroken when l saw him getting injured on TV because l was following the game live on TV,’ the Old Hararians coach said.

“When l saw him after the operation, l thought he was never going to play again because he had some iron coming out of his flesh.

“Heartbroken because l had seen him working very hard from the time he joined Harare Sports Club until he made it into the Sables and Cheetahs’ teams.  

“When he started playing again, l was so happy for him and l didn’t hesitate to call him for the national team and l travelled with him to Hong Kong.”

After Mandenge left the Sables set-up, former Springboks coach Peter De Villiers also saw something in Mhende and included him in his squad for the 2018 Rugby Afrique Gold Cup.

“It was an honour to be selected by coach PDV but with his vision it came with a lot of hard work,” Mhende says.

“I remember almost giving up at one of coach PDV’s training sessions but with all the trust that the coach had in me, I had to just keep soldiering on.

“The work didn’t just stop after the Gold Cup games; we have been given programmes to prepare for the2019 season. For me, the sky is the limit. I will be involved in Zimbabwe rugby on or off the field but definitely I will still be involved to give the Sables that win.”

Last season, Mhende was part of the trailblazing HSC side that finished the league unbeaten in 16 games.

He also played a pivotal role to ensure the Sables remain in the Gold Cup with a spirited performance in the win over Uganda in Kampala. 

“Rugby has showed me that nothing is impossible in life if you give it your all it will happen. My rugby plan is to keep the winning streak on for the National Champions with HSC and continue from where we left of for the Sables.”

Comments (1)

Financial aid is available for schools , clubs , of up to us$100000 in Mat region and up to us $60000 elsewhere in the country , for sports development etc , fT&C apply. Armed forces communities and teams are not eligible.

Matopos House - 21 January 2019

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