Battle lines have been drawn as Harare Sports Club’s Red Lions Club host their perennial arch nemesis Old Georgians’ Dragons in an epitome of rugby derbys in the national league — dubbed the Super 6 tomorrow.
After a lengthy dry spell and the start-stop Zimbabwe Rugby Union (ZRU) last week launched national league that features Zimbabwe’s top six clubs in the quest for the prized championship.
As the two Zimbabwe’s biggest rugby clubs clash, defending champions, Harare Sports Club will be seeking dominance following the return of the Zimbabwe’s national rugby league, which was prematurely abandoned in 2014 due to financial challenges.
This is by far the biggest clash in local rugby as the two sides have held the championship between them in the last five years, other than a draw, no other side has proven a threat to these two stalwarts.
In the opening week the Red Lions had a colossal 49-11 victory over Mutare Sports Club while the Dragons had a nail biting 28-27 win over Old Hararians Sports Club.
Traditionally, this match determines who will be the top dog in this league and some analysts would go further to say that the Dragons and Red Lions will play in August’s final.
“This is a very big game for us and it is also big for OGs. They are a string side and we are well aware that they will put us to the test.
“It is anyone’s game and every second will be a difficult one, supporters and the players know how tough this is and it will intense rugby,” Tinashe Shamu the HSC Rugby Club Chairman said.
Harare Sports Club are defending champions of the northern region rugby league, ending Old Georgians’ dominance in the region while Old Georgians have been the most successful team in the northern region, winning the league championship title in 2016 and 2017.
Going into the weekend game, the Harare Sports Clubs — as defending champions — will start as favourites once more, but one thing the Old Georgians will have that has been absent in recent years against the “old foe” is belief.
The recent move by Zimbabwe Sables eight man Tapfuma Parirenyatwa from Old Hararians Rugby Club to arch-enemies and defending champions — Harare Sports Club is also expected to spark the encounter.
Normally, a transfer of this nature between clubs will attract huge resentment as sentiments about loyalty are a central pillar in local club culture and rivalry.
To add impetus to the clash, the Zambezi Cheetahs return from a futile Hong Kong 7s and the individuals in this squad will return to their clubs.
Dragons will be a vicious threat and far more lethal than they were against Old Hararians as they welcome back their blitz speed trio of Shingirai Katsvere at full-back, Kudakwashe Chiwanza and Takudzwa “Stifler” Kumadiro as the wingers. These are lethal finishers and strong ball carriers against all odds.
For Harare Sports Club the return of versatile Brendon Mandivenga will mean they have another strong option for Victor Mushayahama and Tafadzwa Mhende replacements.
A head-to-head match will test which club has strong ball carriers in the forwards as Blithe “Driller” Mavesera, Lucky Sithole and captain Osborne Muhambi will be the likely loose players against the likes of Dragons’ David Makanda , Takunda Kundishora and the experienced Jakov Jakov.
Harare Sports Club will back on their creativity and very loose wide open play. Their match against Mutare was quite sloppy as the flare on the field on several occasions got the best of the team’s game plan. They are aware, however, that against a potent opponent such as old Georgians Dragons, every inch and knock is a make or break.
The return of the national clubs competition is considered a huge step towards reviving the country’s national rugby league while ZRU has made changes that will intensify the local game as an important feeder system into the national teams.
Meanwhile, Old Georgians will play to their traditionally structured game which is often jazzed up by that fast back three. In as much as being structured is a strength, against the red Lions, it could be a setback when the same structures are broken by unorthodox breaks and attacking formations.
In other matches Old Hararians Sports Club host Matabeleland Warriors while Mutare have their first home game when they host Old Miltonians.
Bulawayo-based rugby outfit, Matabeleland Warriors, won the 2018 Southern region league.