BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
ZIMBABWE international rugby union star Cleopas Kundiona Jr is set to complete a move to French club Stade Olympique Chambérien Rugby as he looks to rebuild his fledgling career after leaving South African club Sharks.
The 22 year-old highly rated tight head prop has been without a club since parting ways with Sharks towards the end of last year at the expiry of his contract.
After leaving the Durban club, Kundiona had been on the radar of several top sides in South Africa and Europe, but he has opted for a move to France.
He is set to be unveiled at Stade Olympique Chambérien Rugby, who play in the French Rugby Federation (FFR) National Championship, which is a rung below the second tier Rugby Pro D2 and the top-flight Top 14 – arguably the richest top-flight rugby union competition in the world.
Kundiona’s management team, Le Cap Sports which takes care of an array of South African and French rugby players around the world, confirmed the Sables’ star’s move to Southeastern France.
“Congrats to Cleopas Kundiona who has joined Chambéry (Stade Olympique Chambérien) in the French Nationale league,” Le Cap Sports said in a statement on their Instagram page.
The move to France is another step forward for the highly talented and hardworking tighthead prop, who has been rising rapidly since making his Sables debut against Uganda in 2018 at the age of 19.
A product of Falcon College in Esigodini, Kundiona was one of the bright stars on the local schoolboy rugby circuit, which earned him selection for the Craven Week twice with the Zimbabwe Schools rugby team in 2015 and 2016.
He got his professional breakthrough a year later when his string of impressive performances in the SuperSport Rugby Challenge with the youthful Zimbabwe Rugby Academy side caught the eye of Sharks’ scouts.
The move to France is expected to further aid Kundiona’s development as he continues to stablish himself as an important member of the Sables, who are aiming to qualify for the 2023 Rugby World Cup to be hosted by the European nation.
Earlier this winter, the steely front helped the Zimbabwe Sables qualify for the knockout stages of qualification for the next edition of the global tournament.
Kundiona is among a growing list of Zimbabwean rugby union stars who are based in France.
The list is headed by the highly rated teenage wing Thabani Maguranyanga, who has been making big strides at Top 14 side ASM Clermont-Auvergne while tighthead Farai Mudariki and flyhalf Jason Robertson are plying their trade in the second tier Pro D2.
The duo of Riaan O’Neil and Tapiwa Tsomondo are at Rugby Club Amienois while Shayne Makombe and George Saungweme recently signed for French Federal 1 club Saint-Denis.