THE Zimbabwe Under-20 rugby team received a sponsorship boost ahead of the World Rugby Under-20 Trophy qualifiers after Old Mutual Zimbabwe announced it will be the title and principal sponsors for both the global youth tournament and the Young Sables. By Daniel Nhakaniso
The tournament that will be contested by Fiji, Namibia, US, Uruguay Hong Kong Soain and Samoa will be hosted at the Harare Sports Club and the National Sports Stadium between April 19 and May 1.
Young Sables prop Justin Mendelsohn (left) in action against Namibia during the Junior Africa Cup in Harare last year. Pic: Rugby Africa.
The winning team will claim the sole ticket to next year’s World Rugby Under-20 championship.
Zimbabwe will be hoping to stamp its authority on home soil after making a return to a tournament they last partook in 2012.
The Brendon Brider-coached team showed glimpses of what it can produce when they clashed with Namibia, Uganda and Kenya in the qualifiers last year.
The sponsorship will help the Young Sables in their bid to play meaningful preparatory matches ahead of the tournament.
Old Mutual Zimbabwe group chief executive Jonas Mushosho announced the sponsorship and the insurance giant’s extension of their relationship with Zimbabwe Rugby Union in development initiatives.
“As a natural progression of our involvement in junior rugby, I’m pleased to inform you that Old Mutual will be the official sponsor of the Under-20 Junior Sables and the World Rugby Under 20 Trophy 2016 that is scheduled for Harare from 19 April to 1 May,” said Mushosho at the unveiling ceremony which was attended by Sports Minister Makhosini Hlongwane.
“This is just an insight into what we are doing for rugby in Zimbabwe. We believe the future is bright and our commitment to the sport will open doors of opportunity to thousands of boys and girls.
Old Mutual Zimbabwe has been involved in local sport for years. In 2014, the group announced a sponsorship package for schools rugby.
The initial sponsorship benefited over 2500 young players within the ages of 12-19 years in selected high-density suburbs in Harare, Chitungwiza and Bulawayo.
However, according to the sponsorship unveiled yesterday, Old Mutual in partnership with Zimbabwe Rugby Union and Tag Rugby Trust Zimbabwe is hoping to target around 30 000 participants in the 6-12 age group categories.
“This year will increase to 20, to include Chiredzi/Masvingo, Hwange, Chinhoyi and three more high density areas in and just outside Harare and Bulawayo. Prior to this development, our sponsorship catered for players in the 12-19 years age range.
“The programme, which is managed by the Tag Rugby Trust, has a national footprint covering the following centres: Harare, Bulawayo, Victoria Falls, Hwange, Matopos, Esigodini, Marondera, Hwedza, Mutare, Kwekwe, Gweru and Kariba.” Mushosho said
Old Mutual was also involved in the recent visit by Super Rugby giants Toyota Cheetahs and the Vodacom Bulls.
“Earlier this year Old Mutual was an associate sponsor for the Super Rugby tour by the Vodacom Bulls and Toyota Cheetahs.
“During this tour, four coaching clinics were conducted by the Bulls in Victoria Falls and Harare, with the Cheaters holding another in Victoria Falls after the historic match. We believe the coaching clinics left a lasting impression among players and their coaches alike,” he said.
Hlongwane, who was guest of honor at the event praised Old Mutual for its continued support for Zimbabwean sports.
The company is also involved in sponsorship of athletics, tennis, golf and junior cricket.