ZIMBABWE’S Sevens rugby team, the Cheetahs, and Tunisia have been confirmed as the only African teams to battle for a place as a core team for the International Rugby Board (IRB) World Sevens Series in Hong Kong from March 28-30.
The Cheetahs and Tunisia’s participation were confirmed by the Hong Kong Rugby Football Union this week.
According to the organisers, the Cheetahs and Tunisia will play in the qualifying tournament which will feature three new teams namely American Samoa, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago.
Other teams in the qualifier are Cook Islands, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Russia and two teams from South America, who will be determined at their regional sevens tournament in late January.
The winner of the 12-team qualifier will advance directly to next year’s IRB World Series, replacing the bottom-ranked core team. Kenya and South Africa are currently the only core teams from Africa on the IRB Sevens World Series Circuit.
The other core teams on the sevens circuit include Argentina, Australia, Canada, England, Fiji, France, New Zealand, Portugal, Samoa, Scotland, Spain, the United States and Wales.
The Hong Kong Sevens’ tournament manager Robbie McRobbie said the inclusion of three more teams would ensure the Hong Kong Sevens retains its status as the largest tournament on the World Series circuit with 28 teams participating.
“It is fantastic that we have these three new teams and particularly exciting that they will bring a carnival feel to help make the 2014 Hong Kong Sevens very special,” said McRobbie.
“Also, because the winner of the qualification event will get an automatic spot in the core series it certainly ups the ante for all teams including our own Hong Kong boys.”
The Hong Kong tournament will be Zimbabwe’s first major tournament in 2014 and only their second appearance on the World Series since the Nelson Mandela Bay Sevens in Port Elizabeth, South Africa early this month.
A fairly young Zimbabwean side which was missing several seasoned players found the going tough in South Africa, losing all five matches to return home empty handed.
The Cheetahs’ major highlight this year was qualifying for the IRB Rugby Sevens World held in the Russian capital, Moscow, in June.