FNB Varsity Shield
FNB UFH Blues utility back Keith Chiwara on moving from Harare to Cape Town, representing his country of birth and his FNB Varsity Shield experience.
You were born in Zimbabwe. When did you come to South Africa? Yes, I was born in Harare and grew up there. I moved to Cape Town when I was in Grade 5. I attended Brackenfell Primary School, which is when I started playing rugby. I continued playing at Brackenfell High School.
Do you think you would have played rugby had you remained in Zimbabwe? No, I wouldn’t have. I loved playing football. The only reason I played rugby is that there was no football at the school. I enjoyed rugby from the start because it meant I didn’t have to go home straight after school and could play with friends. I didn’t take rugby seriously at the time and it was only in high school when I realised that I love the sport. No one in my family had played rugby at a high level, so I’m the first. It’s good to have my family behind me. My brother also played a bit of rugby, so he pushes me all the time to do better.
You’ve earned six caps for Zimbabwe. How does the rugby culture there compare to that in South Africa? There’s not much of a difference – rugby is rugby – but every team has its own culture and values. I learned a lot of things in Zimbabwe. I’m still young and there are bigger and older guys who I had to learn from. It made me realise I still have a lot of developing to do.
What’s your most memorable match and try? I think it was in 2016 when Brackenfell won the inter-schools against Tygerberg for the first time. I think the score was 33-15. My best try has to be my first try for the Sables [Zimbabwe]. We played against Zambia and I came on in the second half. I received an offload and ran to the corner. It wasn’t one of the greatest runs I’ve made, but there’s nothing better than scoring for your country.
How did you end up playing in the FNB Varsity Shield? I was at the Sharks Academy in Durban and some of my mates there told me to go to Fort Hare. At the time, I really had nowhere to go, I didn’t see a future for myself in rugby and I was thinking of going to college to study. Fort Hare provided me with that opportunity, so I grabbed it with both hands. It was one of the best decisions I made.
What’s it like playing in the FNB Varsity Shield? It’s really exciting. The number of people who watch the competition … it’s unbelievable. Our matches are televised on SuperSport even though the competition is only semi-professional, which gives players like me the chance to be seen.
FNB UFH have won their first three matches in 2022. How’s the mood in the camp? Everyone is pumped! Since we’ve been on top of the log, everyone is behind us and everyone wants to see us on campus. The coaches are proud of us and we are working hard together. It was one of our goals at the start to take it step by step to get all the way to the final and win it. The belief is growing and teams are starting to respect us as an institution.
Do you have any superstitions? I wear the underwear that I played my first game of the season in throughout the season.
Who do you look up to in world rugby? Kurtley Beale. He’s very versatile – he can play flyhalf, centre and fullback – and you never know what he’s going to do. I’ve looked up to him from a young age and I watch a lot of his highlights. Today I play a lot of positions. I started as a winger and I played 13 and 15 throughout high school. I can also play 10 and 12, so everywhere in the backline except for scrumhalf!
What are your rugby aspirations? I would like to make it in a professional setup. It’s quite hard to make it in South Africa, so if it would be great if I could get a nice contract overseas. There are plenty of opportunities there.
Interview by Lehlogonolo Ditshego
Photo: Deryck Foster/ASEM Engage