Tinashe Kusema

THE  Zambezi derby between Zambia and Zimbabwe is expected to headline the return of the rugby schools’ festival later this month.

Now christened, the Mwana Group International Rugby Festival, the event is slated from April 28 to May 4 and will wrap up what is expected to be a two-week age-group rugby extravaganza with the Barthes Trophy preceding it.

Zimbabwe are also expected to host the Barthes Trophy, World Rugby’s third-tier Under-20 competition, at Old Georgians from April 20-28.

The Mwana Group have since released the fixtures for the local rugby festival, which will be headlined by clashes between Zimbabwe and Zambia at three levels.

Zambia are bringing three national teams,  the senior men, women and their Under-20 boys sides.

These are expected to clash against their Zimbabwean counterparts, the Sables, Lady Sables and Junior Sables outfits.

This is a far cry from the Europeans schools and teams that were initially promised but a logical starting point, as festival director Kudakwashe Mutenda put it.

“Zambia are our biggest partners here and they will be bringing in three national team sides and two teams at high school level, so expect some good rugby there,” said Mutenda.

“We are hoping to treat the kids, both players and fans, to some good rugby as they will get to see their national teams in action.

“It is a far cry from the European, Asian and North American teams we were targeting initially, but we encountered problems getting buy-in from local partners.

“It is understandable given that we are still starting and we expect some schools to send in their people to come through and see what we have on offer,” he said.

Malawi and Botswana have also confirmed their participation for the festival and the two nations are expected to send through three teams each.

This brings the total to 120 primary and high schools expected to grace the event.

The number is not inclusive of the six national teams from Zambia and Zimbabwe, and the four tertiary institutions – Midlands State University, Chinhoyi University of Technology, University of Zimbabwe and Bindura University of Science Education – who are expected to also attend.

“Zimbabwe versus Zambia remains our main game for the entire festival with the women and Under-20 match-ups expected to play as curtain raisers during the final day of the festival,” said Mutenda.

“We have not neglected the traditional Prince Edward and Churchill clashes but decided to move the match to Friday.”

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