Ruggaworld’s Benedict Chanakira sat down with Zimbabwean born Scotland number eight David Denton to have a chat with him..
It was a sunny mid-afternoon day as I met Zimbabwean-born Scotland number eight; David Denton. A freak of nature on the field and quite some Zimbabwean presense. One of the most devastating ball carriers in the world. He was one of the few highlights of the Scottish’s Six Nations campaign.
Only able to visit home once a year on what is a tough schedule as an international player David enjoys his visits home. He enjoys seeing all his mates and how well they are doing.
From Heritage to Scotland? How did that transpire? David was first coached by his best mate’s dad Andrew Mama, who had an impact on him. The Mama brothers also on a rise in England and we could see the Mama-Denton duel ome day. A notable landmark was being moved from lock to wing and he beams as he recalls the year, “it gave me confidence and it all took off from there. In grade 7 having missed out on national selection I was moved by coach Ashley Denman to flank. The beginning of a journey.
I went on to represent Eastern Province and… “I cut his sentence short and inquired which team he supported growing up. To my surprise he responded, ” Mate I never supported South Africa, because I’m not South African.”Beaming with pride and joy, ” my dad being Zimbabwean and my mother Scottish I grew up being a Scotland fan. I wanted to be an international for them and I have managed to attain that. ”
At Edinburgh he is colossal and after some notable performances was called up to the national side.
David goes on to speak about how much of an impact Andy Robinson had on his career. A coach he feels has tactical brilliance. “Andy believed in me, and on my debut said this to me, you not going out there to add numbers or be ordinary. Go be the best. I went out and was named Man of the match. I was sad to see him go and hope to work with him in the future.That sort of belief is special for a player.”
After a promising Six Nations, Scotland where on the rise and finished third. Hoping to compete this year and kick on they had a disastrous season. ” It was disappointing for all of us, we felt we took a step back. We felt we should have won that game against France and if we had won, its a different campaign. We are building for the World Cup and we are in a tough group. I feel we can get out and our young team keeps developing.
A look at the tour now, we only have a few of our regular players but a couple guys have raised their hands. Depth is building and bar injuries I feel our best XV can compete with any nation in the world. This is an aspect South Africa, New Zealand, etc. have an advantage on us interms of depth.”
Determined, optimistic and hopeful. Despite a poor campaign Denton was the only Scot in the RBS team of the tournament and it was achieved by at times difficult circumstances.
Having a stormer against rivals England he was taken off, he was having the best day for a Scotland player. His frustration was evident. ” I went to speak to Jonno after the game, and he explained the tactical reasoning and how they needed a ball playing loosie in the backs after a yellow card. Fair enough, but it was tough.
I was dropped for the Italy clash and that p***** me off. I managed to retain my starting role the following week and add a Man of the match award. The most important accolade was learning that I can’t rest on my laurels. A situation that returned my focus, and helps me continue to push to be their best player. ”
Another player who qualifies for Scotland who has joined their ranks Sean Maitland has had an impact on the team. “Sean is one of the nicest characters I probably know. Humble, brilliant and has brought a winning culture from New Zealand. Its important for us to develop that culture.
A good highlight was when we reached the Heineken Cup final with Edinburgh. Pity we not as consistent as we want but our rivals have also managed to beat Munster and narrowly lose to Leinster. Its coming and I feel we are on the rise. Going in the right direction as Scotland. ”
On his aims for the future? He candidly responds, ” Realistic expectation would be making the quarter finals or the semi finals. We need to get out our group. I think every player deserves to have a good World Cup and that is my aim.
I also hope to make the British and Irish Lions. I was disappointed to miss the last one. I had less than 15 games under my belt in an injury ravaged season. I had no chance to try make the squad and thats what got to me. Unfortunately thats sport, and hopefully after a World Cup appearance I can aim to play for them in their next tour.”
His toughest opponents being the mighty All Blacks, and he feels since England failed to beat them the only side that looks likely to stop their juggernaut is South Africa. A side who he plays well against and is a derby for him.
“I have history being from Africa, played against most of them at school and I feel there is always a point to prove from both ends.”
I dive into that tackle; yes, the one from JP Pietersen as a wing smashes one of the best number eights in the game. David laments with a grin and some disgruntlement, ” Mate, I see it alot on adverts and don’t like it a bit. He had the angle on me, he backtracks a bit and lauds JP. He is a good player and he put in a good hit. I was hoping I would set it all square the next time we the two sides meet.”
He displays another form of African pride as he was delighted to see Nigeria and Algeria do Africa proud. He is hopes the Zimbabwe Sables will be able to go all the way and make it to the World Cup. To think Denton could have been in the green and white hoops.
He has vowed that when he has made a big enough name for himself he will come assist Zimbabwe rugby development.
A return to Africa to play has been considered. Denton admires the coastal lifestyle and who knows he could don the Sharks or Stormers jumper one day. For now he is focused on Edinburgh and Scotland.
Fastest rising number eight in the game, friendly, humble and definitely a different species from the one on the park for 80 minutes.