Kennedy Tsimba: a 'Chippie' with Boer flavour

By Time of article published Sep 10, 2002

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In Bloemfontein they've adopted Kennedy Tsimba as an honorary Boer, especially since the slick Zimbabwean flyhalf started speaking Afrikaans, scoring more tries and stroking the ball through the poles with the panache of a Cheetah in full flight.

He's been well fed over the past few weeks too, saying that "when the rugby is going well everything generally goes well around here".

Everyone loves a winner and, in Tsimba's case, his well-being translates into invitations for dinner and braais while being feted as the toast of Bloemfontein - particularly after his hat trick of tries in the 57-15 win against Griquas two weeks ago and his most recent brace at the expense of the Falcons, who were downed 47-15 last Saturday.

He also slotted 11 out of 11 kicks at poles against the Griffons and has kept the scoreboard ticking over with a variety of subtleties, be it the deft sidestep he employs to score his tries or the pendulum kicking style to launch those dropped goals, penalties and conversions.

He has also shown clever use of the hands to free space for teammates. "I'm getting invited to more and more potjies for a chop and a dop," said the man now affectionately tagged with a variety of nicknames.

"I don't want to keep the name 'Simba Chippie', but now they all call me 'Diamond', which I'm not too wild about either. It comes from my brother Richard, who played centre for Zimbabwe at the 1987 World Cup in New Zealand. There are people in Bloemfontein who saw that World Cup and remember his play. He was known as the 'Black Diamond', so now I'm the 'Diamond'."

For all the sparkle of his Currie Cup, however, Tsimba knows the quality of the opposition was cannon fodder in contrast to Saturday when the Currie Cup champions come galloping into town.

That's why he says, "I'll be drinking only champagne if we beat Western Province.

"It's definitely going to be one of the most difficult games of the season and we're up against some of the best players in the country. They've got a bit more experience than us and more BMT, I guess. But the Falcons gave them a run for their money (at Newlands on Friday) and, a little bounce here and a couple of breaks there, and it can all swing our way."

It's a contest laced with intrigue to decide who will top Section X of the log and, more importantly, carry crucial points through to the Super Eight. Both teams know victory will turbo-charge their quest for the semi-finals and Tsimba says there are a number of sub-plots hidden in the script.

"It's a pretty big one with a lot of individual match-ups, like (captains and No 8s) Rassie (Erasmus) and Bob (Skinstad). I think whoever handles the pressure better will walk away with the points," he said.

"We are on a high at the moment and we've just got to strike the right balance between overconfidence and confidence. When things go wrong, we have to generate momentum in our play to go forward."

While Tsimba rates the WP backs as "pretty lelik", he says they might struggle without Marius Joubert (out injured) and points out Free State's own firepower - he says centre Friedrich Lombard once ran a 10.5sec (for the 100m).

But the Zimbabwean expresses only respect for his direct opposite, Chris Rossouw.

"He (Rossouw) is one of the best flyhalves around and it's obvious when you see how well he distributes the ball and that big left boot of his. He should get a chance with the Boks," says Tsimba.

Rossouw himself, also the sibling of a great rugby-playing older brother, Pieter, returned the compliment saying Tsimba had "scored some good tries and is having a good season. But you will never see me go into a match with a point to prove against a direct opponent".

He described Saturday as a "new challenge" following Friday's dismal performance against the Falcons: "We would like to show that our wings, fullbacks and outside backs can (still) score tries," said Rossouw.

At Monday's video session, the post-mortem from Friday was grim, exposing the frail underbelly of a WP forward unit who were unable to generate momentum. This translated into searing pressure on the halfbacks and, inter alia, a domino of paralysis for the rest of the three-quarters.

Rossouw said this was one reason he was forced to use his long pass repeatedly to try and float the ball into space out wide. He also acknowledged that a similar tactic used as often against the Cheetahs could prove fatal with a flyer like Lombard on the prowl.

"But that depends on how good he can read it, like (Rossouw's brother) Pieter used to. Anyway, our aim is not just to throw it long. We would like to play De Wet (Barry) more and keep it closer before it whips wide," he said.

At Monday's skills session WP suffered a scare when captain Bob Skinstad excused himself from practice with a groin injury and Breyton Paulse took a knock to the same knee he had injured before the Super 12. Flank Pietie Ferreira also turned his knee and sat out the session.

Coach Gert Smal, however, said he was hopeful that all three would be available for Saturday.

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