In a feature from SA Rugby magazine, we caught up with former Springbok, Stormers and Sharks wing Tonderai Chavhanga.
As one of the fastest rugby players of his era, Tonderai Chavhanga spent over a decade at the top level of the game. The Zimbabwe-born wing spent five years in Cape Town after arriving from the Free State in 2004.
‘The Cheetahs gave me an incredible opportunity to launch my career,’ says Chavhanga. ‘My agent at the time told me if I wanted to be fast-tracked, they were the best team to go to. But I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the Stormers. Carel du Plessis was the backline coach and I learned so much from him.’
Chavhanga was given his Springbok debut by Jake White against Uruguay in 2005. The 21-year-old right wing scored six tries – a Bok record to this day – in a 134-3 win.
‘It was a massive honour,’ he says. ‘I used to tell my friends at school that I was going to play for the Springboks and it seemed like a ridiculous dream.’
When White got involved with the Lions in 2010, Chavhanga followed him to Johannesburg. But he barely played for them over the next 18 months due to injury.
‘I thought being around Jake would give me what I needed. Unfortunately he ended up leaving and things did not go as planned.’
Chavhanga spent two years with the Dragons in Wales, where he had better luck.
‘I had lost my passion for rugby, but going to Newport was the best decision I could have made. It was a fresh start.’
He rejoined the Cheetahs in 2013, but a knee issue put him out for a year. White, who had since been appointed as Sharks director of rugby, gave Chavhanga a chance to train in Durban and gave him a full contract in 2014.
‘When you have a coach who backs you, it gives you confidence. I really didn’t think I would make it back. It was a great opportunity for me, but my knee never got better and I had to call it quits after two years with the Sharks.’
Life after rugby
Chavhanga has been involved in various business ventures. He started his own production company, Mkoma Moving Pictures, while encouraging investment in Zimbabwe.
‘It’s been tough because animation is very expensive and capital isn’t always available. Until recently, there were a lot of people wanting to invest in Zimbabwe and I took them over to meet with the relevant parties. I tried to do my bit to help rebuild my country.
‘At the moment, I am involved with wholesale and bulk fuel supplies in South Africa. That’s been really exciting and it’s going well.’
Chavanga also recently served as an assistant coach to Brendon Dawson during the Zimbabwe Academy’s campaign in the Provincial Rugby Challenge.
Chavhanga has been married to Megon for 10 years, and they have a nine-year-old daughter, Eva, and seven-year-old son, Eli.
‘There is nothing more important than family,’ he says. ‘We make sure we spend as much time together doing fun things as possible.’
Eva has also caught the rugby bug.
‘She is a fanatic! Her school doesn’t offer girls rugby so she has been playing with the boys and made it her mission to recruit as many girls as possible.’
Photo: Lee Warren/Gallo Images