A new rugby home away from home

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Michael Munyanyiwa

Windhoek – Former Zimbabwe Cheetahs player Willis Magasa is quietly making an impact in Zambian rugby, where he is coaching Mufulira Leopards. Leopards plays in the Zambian Rugby Super 8 League. The Southern Times’ Michael Munyanyiwa caught up with Magasa last week to find out how the transition from player to coach has gone.

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Q: It’s been a while since the rugby world last heard about you. Please share with us the experience of your transition from a Zimbabwe Sevens player to coaching in Zambia? 

A: When I moved to Zambia I did not automatically get into coaching, I first started out as a player at Lusaka Rugby Club, where a friend and former opponent on the pitch, the now late Owen “OJ” Busange, was coaching. I played until I decided to retire in 2012. Only in 2014 did I get involved in coaching. I was approached to assist the then head coach of Lusaka Rugby Club, Joshua Lungu, in the Zambian 7s national set-up. I started getting involved on a consultative basis initially in 2014 and 2015. The transition wasn't complicated because the support and assistance from the Union and other coaching staff made things easy for me.

Q: How about in terms of settling in a foreign land, how did that go?

A: Settling in a foreign country is not always easy unless you are surrounded by caring people. My wife has been my source of strength. She made it easy for me to settle in. Knowing how much I love rugby, she gave me the necessary support.

Q: What can you say were the biggest challenges you faced?

A: I think the biggest challenge in any new territory is language. I struggled with language but I managed to catch on fast. The goodness of sport is that even if you're all from different parts of the world you will understand each other because of the common denominator, rugby.

Q: In terms of achievements, what have been your highlights in Zambia?

A: Well, I won most of the tournaments here last year - except one. In the league we finished as runners-up. We lost in the final. We played six tournaments and I won five with my team.

Q: Did you always want to transition into coaching? 

A:  The transition from playing to coaching was always a possibility because I started part-time coaching just out of school back home in Zimbabwe. What never came to me as a possibility was coaching outside the country, let alone in Zambia. But I guess it's a part of the growth process in life.

Q: In your experience in rugby, what do you think the sport needs to grow in the SADC region?

A: I think we need more unity and co-ordination in order to improve the standard of play amongst the rugby playing nations. The gap between South Africa and Namibia and the rest of the SADC nations is huge. Speaking from my experience in both Zimbabwe and Zambian rugby, the governments - through the various sports bodies - need to play a critical role in the progression of the sport and make it professional, like football. When there is better organisation, you will get more corporate support and it becomes a cycle of o growth of the sport.

Q: Do you have plans on working with Zimbabwe or any other SADC member states in the coming years? 

A: Plans...? Not something I would actually put down and say I will end up in this country or region but I am open to growth, new challenges and sharing my knowledge wherever it can make a difference and contribute positively to the growth of the sport.

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