From Zimbabwe to Heretaunga

There’s a poster of Cory Jane at Heretaunga College which a young Zimbabwe-born man walks past and thinks “I want to be on there”.

That man is Brandon Mudzekenyedzi who last Thursday was named as one of 57 high school rugby players to attend a Hurricanes under-18 camp.

The 18-year-old attends the same Upper Hutt school that Jane went to, but has had more success than the All Black did in his early rugby career.

Jane was never picked, or even nominated, for a Wellington team when he was at Heretaunga, but Mudzekenyedzi, who plays in the midflield, has already starred for the Hurricanes under-16s in 2013 and should have made the under-18s last year.

“I fractured my tibia about a month before going [to the camp], so I had to just watch, which was more painful than the injury.”

During the under-16s in 2013 he was named in the zone tournament team, but said he was lucky to even make it to the Williment under-16 coaching week.

“I was going to be sent to an under-16 trial but two weeks before I got a red card so I wasn’t allowed to play in the trial.

“Then they put me through to Williment week, they put me into the bottom team and I had to work my way up to start in the top team.

“I went as a flanker and got put into midfield when someone didn’t want to go in. It was all hard work to get into that team.”

Hard work is Mudzekenyedzi’s catchphrase and something which he hopes will earn him higher honours than just a selection for the Hurricanes under-18 team.

“I want to go further, I was to make the New Zealand [Secondary Schools] team in September.”

Mudzekenyedzi moved from Zimbabwe to Pomare as a six-year-old and said he played football until year 11.

He gave rugby a go and instantly fell in love with the game, building a reputation similar to his rugby role model.

“My favourite player is Conrad Smith, simply because he’s very clever the way he gets around the field, he’s a thinking player.

“His defence is on point and he’s not just a rugby man. I’m trying to be like him but I’ve got a long way to go.”

Another inspiration for him is Jane, who showed him that you can succeed no matter what school you go to if you’re willing to put in the hard yards.

“Every day I walk past the poster of him at our school and think ‘I want to be on that poster’.

“It’s crazy to think that if you want it bad enough it can happen.”

However, rugby isn’t his only passion. In 2013, he won the Wellington secondary school culinary competition, before going on to represent Wellington in the national final.

“You need something to fall back on other than rugby and I want to be a chef.

“You can’t just do one thing, I like the cooking because you can make people smile with food.”

But at the moment rugby is the only thing on Mudzekenyedzi’s plate as he prepares for the camp in Feilding in July.

He’ll be up against the most talented rugby players from 21 different schools across the lower North Island.

The list includes five players from Scots College, three each from St Pat’s Town and Silverstream, two from Wellington College and one each from HIBS and Bishop Viard.

There was little surprise that Scots had the highest representation from any of the Wellington schools.

They continued their undefeated run in premier one rugby over the weekend with a comfortable 34-3 win over Wellington College.

In other results, two tries to St Pat’s Town’s Hurricanes camp-bound Kevin Fauatea saw them cruise past Wairarapa College 50-12.

Tarquinn Alatipi continued his impressive form for Stream with a hat-trick in their 25-3 win over Upper Hutt rivals HIBS. The 17-year-old might consider himself slightly unlucky not to make the Hurricanes camp after scoring nine tries in his last five games.

Rongotai College had a closer than expected game against Tawa, eventually prevailing 17-13.

Wellington players named in the Hurricanes under-18 camp: Alex Fidow, Thomas Umaga-Jensen, Peter Umaga-Jensen, Henry Mexted, Jarimar Shuster (Scots), Billy Proctor, Sefo Numia, Kevin Fauatea (St Pat’s Town), Asafo Aumua, Losi Filipo, Josh Brown (St Pat’s Silverstream), Kemara Hauiti-Parapara, Jimmy Hewitt (Wellington College), Brandon Mudzekenyedzi (Heretaunga), Foliga Vaalepu-Austin (Bishop Viard), Ben Power (HIBS).