The Zimbabwe Sevens (7s) rugby team held their last training session on home soil yesterday before their departure for the next weekend’s Cathay Pacific/HSBC Hong Kong 7s.
The team’s technical department yesterday named a squad comprising players who have previous experience on the HSBC 7s World Series.
The Hong Kong 7s tournament will run from March 23-25.
The Cheetahs face debutants Philippines, Spain and Canada in Pool E in Hong Kong in a 12-team qualifying tournament for core status on the IRB circuit for 2013.
The other teams vying for core-team status include China, Guyana, hosts Hong Kong, Japan, Portugal, Russia, Tonga and Uruguay in Pool D and F.
The top three will secure core team status for next season and play every round of the nine-legged 2012/13 HSBC 7s World Series in an expanded 15-team core competitive format for next year’s international 7s circuit.
The qualifying tournament will run concurrently with the tournament for the existing 12 core teams on the HSBC 7s World Series. Canada, a former core team on the World Series will pose the biggest threat for the Cheetahs.
The Canadians have been impressive in the four legs they have played this season, reaching the third tier Bowl final in South Africa, winning the Bowl title in US an also topping their pool for the first time in New Zealand.
Not to be outdone is Spain whose rise into the top 20 of the IRB world rankings is indicative of the growth of rugby in the Iberian Peninsula and 7s is greatly enjoying the benefit.
Last year Spain, in their three outings, beat Hong Kong, Kenya, the US, Russia and Portugal, and ran both Wales and England very close.
The Cheetahs, who according to the IRB have “dangerous strike runners and fearsome athletes”, will be fancied to dismiss Philippines, who will be making their debut in Hong Kong.
According to the tournament schedule, the Cheetahs play Spain and Canada on the March 23 before taking on Philippines the next day.
Gilbert Nyamutsamba’s men will have to finish in the top two in their group to give themselves a chance of securing core status by progressing to the latter stages of the main tournament.
Squad: Fortune Chipendu, Jacques Leitao (captain), Mike Morris, Manasah Sita, Justin Coles, Graham Kaulback, Daniel Hondo, Gerald Sibanda, Tangai Nemadire, Wesley Mbanje, Njabulo Ndlovu, Gardner Nechironga