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Scottish-born, New Zealand-bred rugby star relishing Zimbabwe Sables dance

by Staff reporter
18 Apr 2021 at 09:14hrs | Views
HE was born in Glasgow in Scotland to Zimbabwean parents, grew up in New Zealand, where he honed his rugby skills at the famed Waikato Rugby Academy, had stints in his native country with the PRO14 side Edinburgh Rugby and the Scotland Sevens and now plays professional rugby in the USA.

But the cherry on top of what has been a satisfying rugby career thus far for Mason Mungo would be helping the country of his father's birth secure a place at the 2023 Rugby World Cup in France.

The 25-year-old open side flanker, who is in his second season at Old Glory DC in the United States' Major Rugby League side (MRL) is one of the several new faces, who were recently named in the Sables squad ahead of their World Cup qualification campaign.

Mungo was named in the squad alongside his Old Glory teammate, flyhalf Jason Robertson who was born in Zimbabwe and attended Ruzawi before immigrating to New Zealand where he has represented Counties Manukau, Waikato and Bay of Plenty in the Mitre 10 Cup.

New Zealand's Mitre10 Cup is the most competitive domestic competition in world rugby.

Mason and Robertson were teammates of Springbok legend Tendai "Beast" Mtawarira at Old Glory DC when the Zimbabwe born global icon signed for the Washington DC club last year after announcing his retirement from international rugby.

In February 2020, all three Zimbabwe natives were named in an "MLR Team of the Week", alongside All Blacks great Ma'a Nonu of the San Diego Legion club and other ex-international stars it was Mungo, who earned the most plaudits.

In an exclusive interview with The Sports Hub this week, Mungo revealed how playing alongside the legendary Beast shaped his decision to represent the Sables after an encounter with a Zimbabwean family in the stands after one of their home matches.

"I first made the decision to pursue my dream of playing for Zimbabwe last year after meeting the Breast, Tendai Mtawarira when he was over here playing for Old Glory where I now play," Mungo revealed.

"After one of the games, I saw a Zimbabwean flag flying in the crowd, I went over and it was a local Zimbabwean family from (Washington) DC, so that kind of like flicked the switch and made me start wanting to play for the country."

Mungo said he relished every moment of playing alongside Mtawarira as he had the opportunity to learn from the 35-year old World Cup winner, who ended his career as the most capped prop in South African history and the third most capped Springbok of all time behind Victor Matfield and Bryan Habana.

"It was an awesome experience, getting to know Tendai. He's a great bloke, incredibly humble and really, really hardworking and always setting a great example. It was awesome being around him, he set a tone of professionalism that we really needed and helped us get a lot of wins which which was really good."

He added: "We did talk a lot about Zimbabwe. I greeted him with mangwanani (good morning) when I first saw him to let him know and from there he and I used to talk about Zim and also about the World Cup and him potentially coming back and doing some coaching and ambassador work, which is really cool.

"He's an absolute role model to all aspiring rugby players and he shows just what you can achieve with hard work, dedication and perseverance, so I really hope he'll be involved so that I can catch up with him again."

Now Mungo is relishing the next chapter of his career when he lines up for the Sables hoping to help guide them to France in 2023 in what would be this country's first World Cup appearance since 1991.

"I love being challenged and being involved with the Sables in the World Cup qualification would be the ultimate challenge and the ultimate reward to actually beat Namibia, Kenya and the other nations to qualify us to the World Cup. That's what attracts me to it I suppose; for a country that hasn't been represented at that level of the sporting world for a while that's a real motivator and I think for Zimbabwe and its people to be represented at a World Cup that's incredibly inspiring and motivating
for myself," he said.

Mungo was born in Carluke, just outside the Scottish capital Glasgow to Zimbabwean parents before his family relocated to Tauranga on New Zealand's North Island
when he was two years old.

From an early age he asserted himself as a sporting force to be reckoned with, both in the water and on the rugby field at Tauranga Boys College, the Alma mater for All Blacks captain Sam Cane, Black Caps captain Kane Williamson, New Zealand Olympic champion Peter Burling and former Mãori All Blacks captain Tanerau Latimer.

He represented New Zealand in under-20 water polo, but it was excellence in rugby that gained the former Tauranga Boys' College Head Boy and 1st XV Captain a prestigious scholarship to study at the University of Waikato.

During the same time, Mungo also had an opportunity to rub shoulders with top players such as the All Blacks duo of utility back Damian McKenzie and prop Atu Moli.

Two years ago he completed his Bachelor of Laws (LLB) degree from the University of Waikato while in Chicago studying at Chicago-Kent College of Law, a wellregarded law school in the heart of Chicago's CBD.

"I always thought that it's important to get a skill, an education alongside rugby you never know when your rugby playing days could be up so it's important to have some back up," he said on his decision to strike a balance between rugby and his studies.

After moving to the US, Mungo played rugby with the Chicago Lions in the Midwest Rugby Union Division 1 side.

He was then signed to a contract with the San Diego Legion for the 2018 MRL season before returning to his native Scotland where he was offered a contract at Edinburgh Rugby ahead of their Guinness PRO 14 campaign.

The open side flanker played in preseason friendlies against Zebre and against the Southern Kings, but the long list of backrow talent at Edinburgh made it hard for him to make matchday 23s as the campaign got underway.

Mungo was also selected to rep resent the Scotland Sevens team as a core member for the 20182019 HSBC World Sevens Series before returning to the US to join Old Glory DC ahead of the 2020 season.

He believes the experience he has gained while playing around the world will serve him well as he prepares to begin his international career with the Sables.

"I'm really fortunate for all the clubs I've played for and it's allowed me to travel, which is kind of my passion, love and joy in life. Being with the Scotland 7s was fantastic I got the experience on how to be a proper pro; Waikato Academy was a really good foundation and hopefully this will serve me well during my international career with Zimbabwe," he said.

The Sables will assemble for camp in Harare on May 16 ahead of the first round of World Cup qualifiers, where Zimbabwe will play in a three-nation Pool D competition in Tunisia this July against the hosts and a third side yet to be decided courtesy of a prior play-off competition.

Ahead of the Tunisia trip, Zimbabwe Rugby Union has lined up two preparatory matches against Namibia and Zambia. Both matches will have full Test status.

Source - the standard

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