RUSSIA’S Sevens (7s) Rugby team will become the latest international team to tour Zimbabwe after confirming their participation at the third edition of Zimbabwe’s Invitational 7s tournament slated for Harare Sports Club from March 14-15.
Zimbabwe Rugby Union’s marketing consultant David Crouch said the 2013 Sevens Rugby World Cup hosts will be joined by fellow international sides Hong Kong and Georgia who will be making a return to the tournament after making their debut appearances last year.
South Africa’s Sevens Academy team, who won last year’s edition, will also defend their title.
“Yes, Russia has confirmed their participation at the Invitational 7s tournament, joining Hong Kong, Georgia and South Africa who will be coming again this year.
“They (Russia) made a request to us as they are going to be holding a training camp in Kenya a week before we hold the invitational tournament and we accepted their request,” Crouch said.
Russia’s participation at this year’s Invitational 7s tournament comes as a huge boost to Zimbabwe’s preparations for the IRB World Sevens Series qualifier in Hong Kong from March 28-30, where they will battle for core status on the world sevens circuit.
The Russians together with Hong Kong and Zimbabwe will play in the 12-team qualifying tournament in Hong Kong where the winner will advance directly to next year’s IRB World Series, replacing the bottom-ranked core team.
“With the Hong Kong Sevens coming up less than two weeks after our International tournament, Russia and Hong Kong realise that it presents an opportunity for them to play competitive rugby. It will also be a very good platform for the Cheetahs who will also be finalising their preparations,” Crouch said.
Unlike the last two editions when Spar bankrolled the international tournament, Crouch said the retail giant would not be the title sponsors of this year’s competition which is expected to feature eight international teams.
“Unfortunately Spar won’t be sponsoring this year’s tournament. At the moment we have African Sun, who have confirmed and we are still in discussions with other potential sponsors who might be willing to partner us. The door is still open to other sponsors who would want to be associated with the tournament,” he said.
South African teams dominated last year’s edition of the International Sevens tournament as Zimbabwe’s senior 7s rugby team, the Cheetahs, settled for third place.
The Cheetahs were knocked out in the semi-finals of the main Cup final by a strong South African Sevens Academy team which eventually emerged as the champions.
The International Sevens tournament will be Zimbabwe’s first major tournament in 2014 since their disappointing campaign at the Nelson Mandela Bay Sevens in Port Elizabeth, in December.