IT’S not often that a Zimbabwean schoolboy rugby player gets an opportunity to rub shoulders with one of the highest paid rugby players in the world.
By Daniel Nhakaniso
Well, that was the case for some lucky fledgling rugby players at Midlands Christian School (MCS) in Gweru last week when former Australian rugby captain David Pocock decided to take a trip down memory lane at his old school.
The 28-year-old Wallabies star, currently in the country, spent the afternoon at his former school on Thursday where in addition to training with their rugby teams he also delivered a speech in which he chronicled some of his fondest memories of his time at the school.
MCS sports director Pharmias Deysel expressed gratitude to the Zimbabwe-born Australian rugby star for his surprise visit to the school in an interview with Sports World on Friday.
“It’s obviously something really significant and meaningful to us as a school because he’s our alumni and we’re very proud of his achievements,” she said.
“We are always grateful when one of our former students comes and ploughs back into the school. We had a very good time with him yesterday; he played rugby with the guys and also had some words of encouragement for them as he delivered a motivational speech.
“But I think what impacted the boys more was the fact that he took some time away from his busy schedule just to be with them.”
Pocock grew up in a farming area just outside of Gweru and began playing rugby as an eight-year-old at MCS and later Midlands Christain College (MCC).
His family (father, mother and two younger brothers) moved to Brisbane to start a new life in 2002, after the family farm was ‘acquired’ in the chaotic land reform programme.
There he attended Anglican Church Grammar School and threw himself into sport, representing the school in rugby, waterpolo, athletics, swimming and cross country before focusing on rugby and waterpolo in his final two years of school, representing Queensland in both sports.
His rugby breakthrough came in 2005 when he toured with the Australian Schoolboys to the UK and on his return moved to Perth to join the Super Rugby franchise Western Force for their inaugural 2006 season on an apprentice contract. And, as they say, the rest is history as it was the start of a very successful career.
Pocock has been on a six month extended break from rugby union since February which has seen him following one of his greatest passions, wildlife and conservation.
“When I was a kid I wanted to be a game ranger or a wildlife vet — nothing quite like getting to live out part of your childhood dreams,” Pocock revealed recently in a post on social media after visiting the Malilangwe Wildlife Reserve.
“Had an incredible 10 days at Malilangwe on the ‘Chemical and Physical Restraint of Wild Animals’ course. Amazing to learn from some of southern Africa’s best vets and other vets and students from 16 countries in one of Zimbabwe’s most beautiful wildlife areas,” he said.
In recent weeks the Brumbies flanker, together with his wife Emma have visited some of the country’s tourist destinations such as the Victoria Falls, Mana Pools. Their aim is to learn as much as they can to set up a conservancy on the family property in Zimbabwe.
He is also the co-founder of EightyTwenty Vision, an organisation that partners with a rural Zimbabwean community development organisation that works in Nkayi, Zimbabwe. The focus areas have been around maternal health and food and water security.
He travels back for two to three weeks each year to visit family, including his grandfather, who still lives here.
“It is still a very special place to me,” he said, explaining why he is so intimately involved in charities in his country of birth.
“Having kept in contact with people in Zimbabwe, I knew it was getting pretty tough. We decided we wanted to do something, but we weren’t sure what we could do.”
Pocock was one of the nominees for last year’s World Player of the Year, staring in Australia’s path to the World Cup final before the Wallabies were beaten by New Zealand.
He has played 55 times for the Wallabies scoring seven tries.
Pocock will be back in action for the start of the 2017-18 Japanese Top League season in August, returning to Panasonic, before rejoining the Brumbies in 2018, a season before the 2019 Rugby World Cup.