For centuries football has been the dominant sport in Botswana commanding a large following. This tradition, however, seems to be under threat with the introduction of other sporting codes like rugby. This game that used to be associated with foreign nationals has now begun to take centre stage on the hearts of some Batswana. The splendid performance and determination shown by some rugby teams has continued to pull a number of people and organisations to follow the game. Such teams include the likes of The Cannon Jaguars. Since its inception in 2015, the team has managed to pull individuals and companies to support and help in the development and growth of rugby in the country. For a team that was formed just to see what good might come out of it, Cannon Jaguars Rugby Club is doing way better than expected. In just a little over two years of its existence the Jaguars have already won the Botswana Rugby Union Knockout Cup. The cup brings together top four teams in the league to battle it out. Cannon Jaguars pulled a surprise by beating champions BDF for the title. Jaguars continue to display great determination and eagerness to become the very best. All this, however, did not come easy nor as a surprise to the team Manager Feddious Mutenheri who says they worked hard to bring the team to where it is now. With the BRU league about to start Mutenheri says they are aiming to win any cup on offer this season. With the BRU knockout cup already in the cabin, the next stop – according to Mutenheri – is the league cup.
How it started
One would say The Jaguars were born out of the success of the Livingstone Kolobeng College (LKC) boys’ rugby team. According to the team manager, who was previously the coach of the LKC boys’ rugby team, the team was producing quality players who after finishing school got wasted as some had nowhere to go. “The LKC boys’ team was doing very well. The team has been champions of the school competitions from 2012 to this day. So after realising that all the talent was going to waste after the players finished school we decided to form an independent team from LKC,” said Mutenheri. He said since development has always been their focus they wanted to come up with a continuation strategy to provide growth for the players. The idea to form the Jaguars was conceived in 2014 and in 2015 all the interested parties were called in to formerly start the team. Though the team is independent for LKC it was formed by former LCK rugby team players. The Jaguars enjoyed the full support of LCK through the school’s Managing Director and Principal in the first year of existence. The school provided the team with the gym, playing field and club house. According to Mutenheri, it was not easy during the first year. “It was very difficult on the first year as the boys were young and inexperienced compared to other teams that have been in the league. The energy they had ran out after only a few games into the season and the numbers started reducing,” he explained. All this, however, did not demoralise the team and the management. To the surprise of many, in its first year in the BRU A league Cannon Jaguars finished in second position after quite an interesting encounter. Mutenheri said the highlight was when the team beat UB Rhinos to reach the finals. When the two teams meet there is always that interesting rivalry with some scores to settle. Mutenheri said UB Rhinos always feel they have taken away their players when Jaguars was formed. “For us on the other hand we go out to prove that our players are the best,” he said. The sudden rise of Jaguars in the maiden season in the league created a lot of interest from a number of people and players who wanted to be associated with the team. This saw an influx of players into Jaguars books. However, there was a slight setback as the team then finished in the third position in 2016 despite having strong seasoned players. To Mutenheri, this was a learning curve as they realised that some of the players were not committed to the team and only wanted fame that they thought would come with the team. Following this a strict recruitment strategy was put in place and the team also decided to go with the young hungry players to prove their being.
The quick rise to the top
Mutenheri said they have come up with a new philosophy to help grow the team forward, which was to strictly guard those who come into the team and check their level of determination to avoid what happened in 2016. He also said they have decided to stick with the young players who have shown determination and loyalty to the team. Asked what is being done right for the team to have quickly risen to the top in just two years Mutenheri said it is all about good governance and transparency. He said if proper systems are in place and well implemented everything falls in place. He likened the situation to a car engine, saying it only perform to its ability when maintained well. Mutenheri said if everything is done right the players also get happy which leads them to developing confidence and do well in the field of play. He attributed the good governance that reign at Jaguars as the major contributing factor to the teams’ success. “Good governance is very crucial in sport. Once this is put in place people will be happy and perform well. Even sponsors get attracted to well-run teams,” explained Mutenheri. He also added that transparency is also key to the good performance that leads to good results. The team manager said the undying support that the team gets for LCK management has also had a very great impact on the performance and growth of the team since its inception in 2015. “The support we have has always been undying and a source of spirit among the players.” He said having a capacitated executive committee is contributing to team’s good performance as the committee run things professionally. Good development structures have also been mentioned as a factor that helped the team. The Jaguars have always benefited from the well-developed young players from the LKC boys team that have for long terrorised their opponents in school tournaments. This year alone Mutenheri revealed that they promoted over 10 players from the boys team to Jaguars. The LKC boys’ team has gone through a rigorous development programme with benchmarking done in countries as far as South Africa, Zimbabwe and the United Kingdom. This has led to the boys getting the much needed exposure and chance to learn from their counterparts. It is believed that this has made the players have an upper hand over the others, hence their impressive performance. By beating a well-resourced team like BDF to win the BRU Knockout Cup is prove that the team is currently doing something right and is on the way to the top. Cannon Jaguars pride themself with among other players like captain Dent Patrick, Ismael Pelaelo, Rambo Masalila and Kaone Mogotsi.
Following a good show in the league Jaguars are drawing interest from companies that want to associate with the team. They are one of the few teams in the league that have a sponsor, one factor that gives them an edge over the others. One of the companies that have shown interest in helping the team is Cannon Botswana, hence the name Cannon Jaguars. Cannon has since 2016 sponsored the team with kits and other equipment needed for the club. Though Mutenheri could not put the sponsorship in monetary terms, he said, that has made a very big impact. Other sponsors include AON Botswana, Vincent excellent Transport. Mutenheri said all the sponsors have been pulled to the team by the way the management is running things at the club. He also revealed that even the sponsors have been given the opportunity to contribute to the professional running of the club. Cannon Botswana director is currently holding the chairmanship of the team while AON Botswana Director is the patron of the Team. The team manager said this has helped the team as the sponsors provide professional expertise in running the club. He said it is good to have a very good working relationship with the sponsors for the good of the team. Good sponsorships always propel clubs to doing well as the players will be well equipped, well taken care of and happy hence good results. It has been revealed that AON Botswana will soon announce something big for the team.
Asked about the future of the team, Cannon Jaguars coach Taku Mhonda who sounded happy with his players said if the team continues with spirit it has it will go far. Mhonda said they are not only trying to build a formidable team but are building a family of Jaguars. He revealed that the reason why the team is high-spirited is because they spend a lot of time together doing even things unrelated to rugby. Mhonda is happy with the quality of players that the team has, saying they will produce a lot of national team material in the coming years. “The players we have are young and experienced. Most of them have got the chance to go through all the ranks from the LKC boys’ team where they underwent great developmental programme,” said Mhonda. He said winning the BRU Knockout Cup might inspire the boys to go all out to win the BRU league now and he is confident they can do it. Beating BDF has given the team hope that they can win, hence the management is also targeting that the team wins all cups on offer this season. By the end of this year Jaguars will be three years and has already achieved what some teams could not or have not achieved in many more years.