Kenyan rugby star Darwin Mukidza has announced his retirement from international rugby ahead of the 2023 season.
Mukidza, who made his debut for the Kenya Simbas in 2015 against Portugal, played in 47 matches for the national team over the course of his eight-year career. The top point and try scorer for the Simbas, he also played 16 matches for the Kenya 7s team.
Mukidza helped the Simbas finish second in the Rugby Africa Cup in 2022 before representing the side in the Repechage, where they failed to qualify for the World Cup. In a statement, Mukidza said he was now shifting his focus to club rugby and his family.
Reflecting on his rugby career, Mukidza said he had never imagined that he would go on to play the game at the highest level and represent his country across the globe. “Every time I have put on that Simbas shirt has been a moment that I will cherish forever, one that I would not trade for anything else in this world,” he said.
Mukidza also thanked his family, friends, coaches, and fans for their support throughout his career. “I have shared the pitch with some of the greatest players in rugby, I have done this alongside men that I have grown to call my brothers, beyond the rugby pitch,” he said. “We have done great battles and created lifelong memories together, as we chased that ultimate dream of qualifying for a Rugby World Cup.”
Mukidza’s retirement comes as a blow to the Simbas, who are currently preparing for the 2023 season. However, the rugby star expressed confidence in the next generation of players and said he believed they had what it takes to take Kenya to a Rugby World Cup.
His full post reads:
“When I first picked up a rugby ball, as a young boy at Utafiti Primary School in Kericho , I didn’t know that this ball would literally change my life!
If you had told that young Darwin Mukidza, that he would go on to become ‘the smiling assassin,’ and not only play this game at the highest level, but also represent his country across the globe, he would have definitely laughed out… very loudly, in disbelief.
Yet here we are, 19 years on from that time I first picked up a rugby ball. As I sit here in this moment, I am laughing, looking back at how that kid’s wildest dreams have been out done, by a country mile!
I have had the highest honour and privilege of representing my country in both codes of the game, closest to my heart though, is the 47 times I have dawned the black, red, green and white of the Kenya Simbas, passionately sang our national anthem and went on to give it everything I had, alongside my brothers. For God, family and you, my country!
Eight years since I first had the honour of representing Kenya and got to experience the feeling of singing out the national anthem with you all at a parked RFUEA grounds, before we took on Portugal in 2015… It is time to call it a day on my international career and allow the next generation of players to take us to a Rugby World Cup!
Every time I have put on that Simbas shirt has been a moment that I will cherish forever, one that I would not trade for anything else in this world. It is an experience that I would love to have, for as long as is humanly possible.
I also know the amount of work that I need to put in to get that honour, unfortunately as the years roll on and my priorities in life change, I have come to the realization that I am unable to put in the amount of work and commitment required to represent my country, leading me to this tough decision.
As I call it a day on what has been an international career beyond my wildest dreams, I will dearly hold on to every moment and every memory I have made. I leave the Simbas as the top point and try scorer, the second highest capped player and a captain.
I could not have achieved all these accolades by myself, my international career has been a collective effort from people I am lucky and thankful to have in my life.
I want to first thank God for the talent He bestowed on me and giving me the health and opportunity to worship Him through this gift and showcase it the world over!
To my family, my parents, for supporting and praying for and with me from the very start, especially my mother who bought me my first pair of boots. My wife and children, who have endured early mornings and lonely nights, days, weeks and months on end as I chased this oval ball, I thank you!
My friends, for the support, critique and praise at the right times, you have been my driving force.
To the clubs I have played for, Mombasa RFC, Mwamba RFC and KCB RFC, I would have not made it this far without the platform you each gave me.
To my national team coaches, Michael ‘Tank’ Otieno, Jerome Paarwater, Ian Snook, Innocent ‘Namcos’ Simiyu and Paul Odera, asanteni for giving me the opportunity to represent this great nation, I am forever grateful.
I have shared the pitch with some of the greatest players in rugby, I have done this alongside men that I have grown to call my brothers, beyond the rugby pitch. We have done great battles and created life long memories together, as we chased that ultimate dream of qualifying for a Rugby World Cup. I couldn’t have wished for a better band of brothers!
To the fans, you gave myself and the team, that extra push to take on the world whether we were playing at home or away. Through your words of encouragement and support in the good and tough times, I truly felt that I was representing you all, thank you!
As I sign out, the dream is still alive, we will be playing at a Rugby World Cup in this lifetime, I believe that this new crop of players making it to the Simbas squad have what it takes to take us there, and with Jerome back at the helm, we might be closer than we think!
Every result is a step closer to achieving our dream, I will be cheering you on, every step of the way!
I have thoroughly enjoyed every opportunity I have had to represent this great country, the memories will fondly live on well beyond my playing and living days, for that I will forever remain indebted to this game.
My attention now shifts to my family and club…
The Smiling Assassin, Darwin Kinyangi Mukidza!”