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Shingai Chiwanga takes on Shelford Rugby Club captaincy as Peacocks prepare to strut their stuff

Shelford captain Shingai Chiwanga in the new kit for the community day. Picture: Steven Illingworth (50611244)
Shelford captain Shingai Chiwanga in the new kit for the community day. Picture: Steven Illingworth (50611244)

A new season will mean a new role for Shingai Chiwanga.

One of the senior and most experienced players in the Shelford squad, it should perhaps have been no surprise that the 35-year-
old was asked by director of rugby Will Cotterill to take on the role.

However, it was just that for the back three player.

“I know I’m one of the senior players in the team and, if I’m honest, we’re lucky because we have a lot of voices and a lot of leaders as well,” said Chiwanga. “I was really chuffed to be considered because of the leaders and characters we have. It was nice when Will got in contact with me to ask if I would be interested.

“I took it with both hands. The club means a lot to me so it’s a real honour for me to be captain this year as well.

“I’m really happy and proud of the team we’ve got together as well.”

As with all rugby clubs in the community game, it has taken time for them to be able to get the chance to show what they can do.

Last season’s London 1N campaign was cancelled in its entirety because of the pandemic, although Shelford did take the opportunity to play a couple of games in the late spring under the adapted rules with no scrums or mauls.

Many of the squad have also been finessing their skills during the summer in sevens rugby, something that Chiwanga is well accustomed to having represented Zimbabwe in the format.

“We did really well at the Shelford one, we got to the final and ended up being runners-up,” he said.

“We were gutted not to win in front of the home crowd, but it was a really good day nonetheless.

“We managed to win the men’s bowl in Norwich. We were in the open competition at the beginning and unfortunately didn’t make the cut for the open tournament knockout stages, but we made the cut for the bowl knockout stages and never looked back.

“We had a good core of the boys involved with the sevens so probably in total there were about 15 maybe 16 of us. It’s been great getting to play with some of those guys regularly and the sevens competitions were a really good opportunity to play.”

The speed and eye-catching nature of sevens rugby can sometimes be taken for granted.

But the emphasis on free-flowing, end-to-end rugby means that it can develop and hone technique for the XV game.

“Your core skills are really put under pressure in sevens because you need the skills anyway, but under fatigue and also tactical thinking in terms of making the right kind of pass, making the right decisions, whether to go pass, kick or go into contact, clearing rucks,” said Chiwanga.

“In terms of defensive structure as well, so the communication has got to be high there as well so it’s a fantastic prep for the XVs game and, just in general, people underestimate how valuable sevens is just for core skills, running rugby and decision making.”

Shingai Chiwanga in action for Shelford. Picture: Rich Marsham
Shingai Chiwanga in action for Shelford. Picture: Rich Marsham

Hopefully these traits will be on display throughout the campaign at the Davey Field.

Chiwanga admits that there is an excitement about what is to come after no rugby last season, when the squad appreciated how much they missed it.

So they are raring to go, and have some clear goals.

“We want to give a really good account of ourselves,” said Chiwanga. “We feel with the league there is a bit more scope in terms of the structure because it is a bit different with regards to how many teams are considered for promotion.

“It’s a real driving force to get ourselves in the mix, so we’re keen to get as high up in the table as possible.”

It starts on Saturday (September 4) at home to Old Haberdashers, which Shelford have designated as a community day. There will be free entry to the ground, and the club will be wearing a rainbow peacock kit.

It was designed by the Hodskinson family in a competition to keep club members engaged in the first lockdown of the pandemic, with entries going to a public and members vote to decide the winner.

The kit will be auctioned after the matches, with proceeds donated to NHS charities.

“We’re all looking forward to it,” added Chiwanga. “It’s a nice way for us to say thank you to everyone.

“We’re really proud to give back and say thank you for sticking with us.

“The Peacock family has been as strong as it was, and you realise it now after a year such as last year.

“The motto is sometimes look good, play good so everyone is very happy about the kit and fingers crossed we can do it justice.”

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