ZIMBABWE rugby stalwart Gardner Nechironga has announced his retirement from international rugby.
Nechironga, whose international rugby career for Zimbabwe spanned over eight years, made his Sables debut against Madagascar at Hartsfield Rugby Ground in Bulawayo in 2006.
Then playing lock, Nechironga, who would go on to play in different positions for both the national XVs and Sevens sides, dived over the line to score a try in the thrilling 22-22 draw.
During a stellar career, the 31-year-old utility player helped the Cheetahs qualify for two Sevens Rugby World Cups in 2009 and 2013. He was also part of the Sables squad which won the maiden CAR Africa Cup title in 2012.
In an interview with NewsDay Sport from his base in South Africa, where he plays for the Raiders club in Johannesburg, Nechironga said he had initially made the decision to retire after last year’s Sevens Rugby World Cup in Russia.
“I have decided to retire from international rugby. The news of my retirement will probably come as a surprise to some, but it is a decision that I’ve been mulling since the last World Cup in Russia and now I feel this is the right time from me to call it a day,” he said.
Nechironga was initially included in the Cheetahs squad which is currently in South Africa for the Cell C Nelson Mandela Bay Sevens in Port Elizabeth, but withdrew citing personal commitments.
On his future plans Nechironga said he would continue to play club rugby both for his South African club and on the domestic scene while also stating that he had plans to venture into coaching.
“I will continue to play club rugby for Raiders here in South Africa and will always be available to support local rugby,” said Nechironga. “I also have plans to venture into coaching as a way of giving back to the community and helping young stars who are coming through the ranks.”
“I want to thank Zimbabwe Rugby Union (ZRU) for all their efforts to ensure rugby keeps moving forward. We have great talent in the country and if all stakeholders work together the sport has the potential to grow even bigger than it is at the moment,” he said.
Nechironga was born on February 5 1984 in Luveve, Bulawayo, where grew up.
As a young boy he played soccer having been inspired by his uncle, George Nechironga, the former Caps United striker who jointly won the soccer star of the year award with Peter Ndlovu in 1991.
His first introduction to rugby was however, at Mafikela Primary School in Luveve, before he proceeded to Luveve High School.
Although rugby wasn’t a major sport at Luveve High School, Nechironga was good enough to be selected for a star-studded Zimbabwe Under-21 team in 2004 under Bulawayo coach Peter Staak.
Other prominent players in the side included former Sables captain Cleopas Makotose, Zimbabwe Sevens captain Jacques Leitao, ex-Sables centre Paul Staak, Daniel Hondo, Sables and Cheetahs forward Fortune Chipendu.
The team also produced a Springbok in the form of France-based tight-head prop Brian Mujati.