ZIMBABWE’S opening Rugby Africa Gold Cup against Morocco on Saturday will be special for South Africa-born flank, Jannie Stander in more ways than one.

BY DANIEL NHAKANISO

The 25-year-old towering Pumas enforcer will represent the country of his parents’ birth for the first time, but on top of that, he will be playing alongside his brother, Johan (27) in a competitive match for the first time.

Jannie, who turned out for South Africa’s Under-20 side at the 2013 Junior World Championship in France, is a specialist second-rower, who comes with a big reputation in South Africa, while Johan is a flank, who can also play at lock.

They are set become the second set of brothers to in the Sables lineup with the highly-rated Mudariki brothers, Hilton and Farai also expected to start at scrumhalf and tight head prop respectively.

“This is the first time me and my brother are going to play with each other. It’s quite a priviledge and we are looking forward to the great season ahead,” Jannie told Sables TV ahead of Saturday’s encounter at Harare Sports Club.

“It means a lot to play in this competition, it’s really a priviledge to play for Zimbabwe since we were little boys we loved this country. We’ve been living in South Africa for so long and I think it’s going to be really great season and I’m really looking forward to playing for Zimbabwe in this Gold Cup,” he said.

It has been a long journey to Sables contention for the Stander brothers, who were born in Phalaborwa, in the Limpopo province of South Africa.

The two brothers, like several other professional players still being courted by Zimbabwe, qualify for the Sables through
ancestry.

“We were born and raised in Phalaborwa in the Limpopo province of South Africa, our parents were both teachers at the primary school we were taught at, so from an early age we were involved in sports and living next to the rugby fields,” Johan said.

While Jannie went on to pursue a professional rugby career after completing high school education at Hoërskool Monument in Krugersdorp, Johan took a different path after training to become a teacher at Pretoria University, while continuing to play rugby on a part-time basis.

Johan, who plays for Nelspruit Rugby Club in Mpumalanga, said although they grew up in South Africa, they still had a special connection with Zimbabwe and were relishing the prospect of donning the Sables jersey.

“Being part of the Sables setup is an incredible priviledge, we were raised in the south of Zim where we had a farm. My dad was also raised here in Zim, so to be part of this is very special, to be able to hopefully pull on over our head the green and white jersey in the Africa Cup will be a massive honour and we’ve got a very special connection with Zimbabwe and it’s just a priviledge to be part of the setup,” he said.