Picture: withers and son photography
The “Young Bucks”, as they are known, are participating in the competition for the first time this year, with the stated goal of building for their World Cup 2023 challenge.
Coach Brendon Dawson, his panel and the squad have identified their long-term objectives in this regard, the SuperSport Challenge being the throwing of the foundations so to speak.
“Preparations start now”, says team manager Jason Maritz.
“We will be competing against Unions which have a long history and rich pedigree and this will be an ideal opportunity to measure our position at this stage.”
Zimbabwe, with a rich rugby history, faces different challenges in terms of development, none the least being geographical.
Their player base is spread across a large country and playing numbers are not as plentiful as South Africa. The opportunity to compete against South African franchises on a regular basis has obvious benefits.
The Young Bucks would be able to measure their skills and fitness levels, the intensity of the physical game and that extra yard of pace at which the game is played further south of their base.
“The players have bought into the objectives of management and are here to learn,” says Maritz.
“We are aware of the strength of the unions in the competition and aim to take whatever we can out of every fixture.”
“We may even surprise one or two as we go along”, he said mischievously.
The Young Bucks are based in the southern suburbs, acclimatising to their environment and making themselves at home at False Bay RFC.
“We will be conducting some coaching sessions at schools in the area and generally just fitting in.”
For local rugby fans, the connection between the Young Bucks and False Bay RFC is enough reason to adopt the Zimbabweans as their other team besides WP.
The Bay’s recent relationship developed when the Constantia team travelled to Harare for their Gold Cup pool encounter in 2017.
The occasion saw the birth of a relationship between like-minded folk with a similar rugby culture, which resulted in the Bay touring Harare in 2018 to play a two-match series against Old Georgians.
An objective of the SuperSport Challenge is to expose this level of competition to a different base.
One innovation is to play multiple matches at one venue on a Sunday, which will be televised.
Another is to affiliate a team to a club and expose them to the rugby community through this interaction.
The Gold Cup experience laid the foundation for the adoption of Constantia as the Young Bucks home from home.
Maritz says that his team are rebuilding and it is the long-term goal that is in their minds.
“This is a process which includes the establishing of a culture, with clear goals which requires the buy-in of all”, he said.
While the similarity between the Young Bucks and False Bay may appear frivolous and disrespectful of the higher level of rugby competition, the club can perhaps share some experiences of rebuilding and developing a team and a winning culture, having been in the doldrums a decade and a half ago.
Four Bay players form part of the Young Bucks squad and their future plans. Current players Rian O’Neil, Jan Ferreira and flank Dustin Andrews are joined by former Bay hooker, Roger Mwali in the squad.
“We are really hoping to start setting some good foundations as we build towards the next RWC qualifiers”, said O’Neil, a Zimbabwean Sevens international too.
The progress of the Young bucks, Constantia’s adopted provincial team, will be keenly followed by the local rugby community as they navigate the choppy waters of the SuperSport Challenge from their home at False Bay RFC.
Local rugby enthusiasts are invited to join the caravan and support this enthusiastic and friendly group of rugby warriors as they face some of South Africa’s top provinces.
Kick off at the Phillip Herbstein fields is at 4pm on Saturday. Entry cost R20, scholars free.
Jon Harris is a member of False bay RFC.