Zimbabwe Rugby Union (ZRU) announced the resignation of Abigail Kawonza from her national team coaching position in pursuit of other top portfolios she holds with the ZRU and World Rugby.
She was the head coach of the Zimbabwe National Women’s Seven’s side, the Lady Cheetahs, but considering her footprint, Kawonza’s shoes could be too big for any coach to fill.
During her coaching stint, Kawonza also mentored players and other coaches that she took under her wing throughout her tenure as a coach.
ZRU media and communication consultant Jeffery Murimbechi, confirmed Octavia Chikurura and Nothando Ndlovu, who were assistants to Kawonza will take over and there was no need to press the panic button.
“There are no major assignments at the moment and there is no need to panic. Her assistants will take care of things at the moment. She is not leaving the rugby circles but she has to concentrate on other portfolios as she is president of the Zimbabwe Rugby Referees Association among other roles,” Murimbechi said.
Kawonza has led the team in various tournaments such as the Kwese Sevens where the Lady Cheetahs were crowned 2019 champions as well as giving Zimbabwe its highest ranking in Africa reaching third position after a brilliant run in the 2016 Rugby Africa Cup.
She holds a long list of records breaking new ground as the first woman in Africa to be appointed as a senior national team coach — this has inspired and opened doors for other women in Africa such as Uganda Sevens head coach Helen Buteme who was appointed in 2009.
She is also the first woman to be appointed as president of the Zimbabwe Rugby Referees Association and the first Zimbabwean woman to become a World Rugby Citing Official.
A former national team rugby player and Old Hararians Sports Club, Kawonza wants to concentrate on the portfolios she is handling.
“It was a difficult decision for me when you have so much passion for the game. I had decided it was time for me after the 2018 Africa Cup. I feel I had a long and great run with the team.
“I have worked with great players and coaches — there is a solid group of girls that will ensure the successful continuation of women’s sevens.
As history shows, I will not be able to let go of the team, I will always be available to the players and coaches whenever they need me.
“I can now have time to focus on my citing and my role as president of the Zimbabwe Rugby Referees Association. It is a handful, referees tend to be worse than players but I love this job. I have enjoyed my rugby and I am thoroughly enjoying this as well,” said Kawonza.