CAPE TOWN - Western Province tighthead prop Michael Kumbirai has a few goals, and one of them is to make the position “cool again”. And at only 22, he sure has time on his side. Injuries haven’t made Kumbirai’s journey an easy one since moving to Cape Town from Pretoria.
During Province’s Currie Cup-winning season last year, Kumbirai played a role early on in the competition, but a back injury cut his season short. Before that, Kumbirai also picked up a torn pectoral muscle in the Varsity Cup. But now, fit and ready, he’s looking forward to having more fun with the team - something he believes has been a big part of their on-field work.
“I think as a team, off the field we are having some of the most fun we have ever had with the team and that is translating very well to our on-field performances and the coaches are doing very well to create that environment for the team and us as players to be able to play for each other,” he said. “I think that is one of the main things that motivated me to train well and progress well enough to give a good scrum base for my team.”
Kumbirai passed the test against the Free State Cheetahs’s Ox Nche when they packed down last weekend, something that should have been especially rewarding given the tough time he had when he first went up against him.
“I think with the Cheetahs especially it is a bit of a personal battle. I think I started off my career against the Shimlas and I had Ox that game and I think that game he dragged me around the park,” Kumbirai admitted.
“It was my first Varsity Cup game and it is nice to have developed these past few years to be able to hold my own on Saturday. It does put us in good stead going into the rest of the season because the Cheetahs are renowned for their scrum. So it will be nice to test how far we can push this Province scrum throughout the rest of the season.”
As with any player at this level, the ambition is to reach the highest level, and with Kumbirai it’s no different. The front-rower also feels that he has the right hand guiding him in Hanyani Shimange.
“I do feel that there is an opportunity for me to go higher up. It is something I’m working on with forwards coach Hanyani Shimange. I know tighthead is not the most glamorous position, but I’d like to make tighthead cool again because it is quite an important position in the team in terms of getting a platform in the setpiece.”