BOROUGHMUIR captain Andy Rose will return to his native Zimbabwe this summer on the first leg of a journey that could lead to him appearing in the 2015 rugby World Cup in England.
The former Scotland under-20 cap has decided to throw his hat into the ring with “the Sables”, admitting that failure to retain a place with the Scottish clubs’ international side he represented twice last year played a part in his deliberations.
“I was disappointed not to get into the clubs’ team and that helped me make my decision,” said Rose, who could be on a collision course with the All Blacks as the winners of the African qualifying will be in their pool.
Zimbabwe, whom Rose skippered at under-19 level before heading to Britain to complete a degree in Sports Management and Business at Hartpury College, Gloucestershire, are now the top-ranked African side behind the Springboks and are regarded as strong contenders to emerge from a qualifying tournament in Madagascar in July featuring the host country, Uganda and Kenya.
Rugby is growing at a dramatic rate in Madagascar and a crowd of 35,000 watched the national side play Namibia last year, with the capital city of Antananarivo boasting a new national stadium opening at the beginning of this year.
Rose can’t wait to be part of the action, although he knows that reaching the Zimbabwe team is not a given.
“I’ve been speaking with the Zim coaches and they want me to go back and attempt to play my way into the side through the league system,” he said.
“I’m happy to do that and leave for home on April 16, but I am also determined to return to Boroughmuir next season and help the club quickly regain the Premiership status we have just forfeited by being relegated.
“The last thing I am going to do is jump ship at Meggetland, but I would like to try to help Zimbabwe on to the world stage.
“I don’t anticipate playing abroad in the build up to the World Cup will be a problem if I make the national squad and there are other Zimbabweans under consideration who play for Ayr and Gala.”
In the past, Zimbabwe have seen players such as Dave Denton (Scotland), David Pocock (Australia) and Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira (South Africa) gain caps elsewhere.
Rose added: “A lot of youngsters attending rugby academies in South Africa have given a commitment to return to Zimbabwe while former Scotland flanker Scott Gray has gone back to head up the Sports Department at my old Zimbabwean School.
“All these things will improve Zimbabwean rugby, but, in the short term, we want to top Pool A of the qualifying.”
Rose is optimistic experience gained over the summer will help Boroughmuir bounce back. “As captain, I take personal responsibility for the position Boroughmuir finished in the league” said Rose. “We just got out of the habit of winning tight games. There was not the mental edge to close out games.”
In fact, Boroughmuir lost seven games by a margin of a single score in addition to drawing at Currie. Rose said: “Hopefully, in dropping down to the National League, we can rediscover the ability to get over the winning line.
“I’m not saying the National League is going to be easy but we will have a few things going for us. One worry had to be losing the players coming through the Scotland under-20 system but, having spoken to them, I have received verbal confirmation they’ll be staying at Meggetland.
“Also, having professionals turning out for us throughout last season was definitely a benefit. However, the pros won’t be available in the National League but the upside is we might be putting out a more settled team each week.
“We can consolidate and move forward and although we are desperately disappointed to see Fergus Pringle leave as coach after putting so much into the club there will be someone new with different ideas and tactics for the new season.”
Clearly, though, Rose retains enormous affection for Zimbabwe having told the Evening News previously of the difficulties growing up in a land touched by political turbulence.
“When I was 14 my family had to leave our farm in Mashonaland and move to the town of Marondera,” he said.
“I found it difficult not being on the farm and the bigger picture was that I sat down with my family and later my rugby coaches and decided it would be best for me, like so many others, to move overseas.
“The coaches were disappointed but understood my position. Maybe I could still go down the ‘Zim’ route.
“Growing up in Zimbabwe with one million per cent inflation wasn’t easy and nor was the passing away of my dad a couple of years ago.
“But those experiences have helped shape me and maybe given a harder edge to my rugby.”
Scottish pro rugby’s loss could be Zimbabwe’s gain.