Pride Nyameni is one of the shortest players in local rugby but possesses deadly skills.
The player is blessed with good handling skills, marks and distributes well.
He is a fearless competitor, despite most of his opponents towering above him.
While he has thrived on the pitch, Nyameni says it was by chance that he ended up on the rugby field.
Growing up in the streets of Harare, Zimbabwe, Nyameni did not have interest in playing rugby. The 23-year-old said in 2006, when rugby was introduced at Gwinyai Primary School, he used to accompany his friend, Tendai Dhliwayo who was a player.
“I accompanied my friend when he went for his practice sessions for two weeks. The coach actually forced me to join or he would kick me out, from the grounds,” he says.
The rough introduction then eased out into a smooth ride for Nyameni, who started playing at the age of nine. He would spend the first year without kicking or handling the ball.
“I had no idea what rugby was but eventually coaches started introducing competitions amongst us,” he explains. Nyameni reveals he made his debut against Prince Edward Under-14 team. “Although I cannot recall how we did it, all I knew was that we won because I was confused during the game,” he says with a giggle.
From Gwinyai, Nyameni received a scholarship to join Churchill Boys School for his secondary education.
“We had an unbeaten run in 2010 when I was at Churchill and in 2013 I got another scholarship at Vainona High School. I then moved to Kyle College for senior education,” Nyameni recalls.
He got an opportunity to play for Harare Sports Club where they reached the quarterfinals of the Dairiboard tournament. After he moved to Botswana, he got a chance to play for Gaborone Hogs in 2018.
“Just like the first time, I came here because I was following my friends. I had missed playing with some of them because I had teamed up with them when we were growing up. So here I am,” he says.
According to Nyameni, the reception was warm and he easily gelled at the club. “I had to compete with other players for the number nine jersey, but it was friendly competition within the camp,” he says.
Comparing Zimbabwe and Botswana rugby, Nyameni argues local rugby is very physical while in Zimbabwe it is fast-paced with a fair amount of heavy hitting.
“Playing against BDF Cheetahs or Canon Jaguars is always a headache. Against Cheetahs, expect sore bodies and Jaguars expect a lot of gasping of air.”
The pint-sized right-footed kicker says before each game, his coach always wants to know if he is ready.
When asked about what goes through his mind when he steps in to the pitch, Nyameni says over the years, he has perfected his skill.
“I am still far from where I want to be. Whenever I take a kick, I tell myself that I cannot miss. I think of how that point could make a monumental difference. Then I think about my team captain, my teammates and supporters,” Nyameni says.
“I would feel like there is a drumbeat in my head so I would calm down to silence the anxiety. Then look at the goalpost and look at the ball. I picture my trajectory and keep my head down. That is when I go for it.”
His role models are All Blacks players, Aaron Smith, a scrum half and Brad Webber, who is a halfback.
Hogs coach, Shaun Lees says Nyameni is an amazing player and extremely talented.
“Nyameni plays a very important role in the team with regards to structure and the way we want to move the ball. He is the link between the big forwards and the backline and he has great ball handling skills, marking and ball distribution seems so effortless,” Lees says. He points out he could not ask for a better player in the number nine jersey. “I think people need to understand that the number is like the general of an army, he needs to make good decisions based on what he sees in front of him, he also needs to be able to think fast, react and execute without much room for error. Nyameni is in a class of his own,” Lees says.
Full names: Pride Nyameni
Date of birth: April 23, 1997
Place of birth: Harare