Cheetahs in tough group

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The national sevens rugby team were drawn in Pool A alongside South African sides, Northern Select, Buffaloes and minnows Botswana for the opening day of the Spar International 7s at the Harare Sports Club cricket field tomorrow.

The Cheetahs, who are using the tournament to prepare for the Hong Kong 7s, will be firm favourites to win the their home tourney, but are expected to face strong competition from the South Africa 7s Academy, which is the top-seeded team in Pool B. The SA 7s Academy will battle it out with compatriots Northern Region, Zambia and the Cheetahs’ second string side, the Goshawks.

According to the match schedule released by the organisers yesterday, Gilbert Nyamutsamba’s men open their campaign against the South African Buffaloes before taking on Botswana and Northern Select later in the day. Their progress in the tournament will be determined by their results in the pool matches.

The Cheetahs’ preparations went a gear up yesterday with their first training session with a full complement of players. Germany-based Manasah Sita, Mike Morris, Njabulo Ndlovu and Wesley Mbanje from South Africa joined the other South Africa-based players such as Graham Kaulback, Jonathan McWade Gerald Sibanda and Tafadzwa Chitokwindo who arrived on Tuesday.

England-based Justin Coles, who arrived last week, and the locally-based payers such as Kelvin Magunje, Fortune Chipendu, skipper Jacques Leitao, Tangai Nemadire and Daniel Hondo were the first to join camp on Monday.

Meanwhile, top South African 7s rugby side, Pumas have pulled out of the inaugural Spar International 7s rugby tournament which kicks off on Saturday at Harare Sports Club. The Mpumalanga-based side which takes part in the Currie Cup was expected to send their 7s side for the tournament, but notified the organisers about their withdrawal on Tuesday.