THE Zimbabwe Rugby Union (ZRU) selectors yesterday named United States-based uncapped utility player Benjamin Nicholls in the Cheetahs squad for this week’s Zimbabwe International Sevens Invitational tournament set for Harare Sports Cub this weekend.
Nicholls, who plays for the Utah Warriors Rugby team in Salt Lake City in the US, was the only surprise inclusion is the side which will do battle against South Africa, Russia, Hong Kong and Georgia, who arrived yesterday evening.
Former Cheetahs coach Liam Middleton, who is now the ZRU’s director of rugby, said he had been impressed by Nicholls’ credentials on the US 7s circuit.
“We obviously wanted to select two very strong squads because this is our home tournament and it’s important for us to do well. Benjamin has been a full-time 7s player in the US for the past year and has played a number of invitational tournaments around the world.
“I’m quite impressed with him as a player and we wanted to give him an opportunity to show us what he can do,” said Middleton.
The inclusion of Nicholls saw Brendon Boshi, who earned his first Cheetahs cap at the Nelson Mandela Bays Sevens in Port Elizabeth, South Africa in December, making way.
Boshi was named in the Cheetahs’ development side, the Goshawks, which will be captained by promising UK-based scrumhalf Hilton Mudariki.
“There are a couple of guys like Brendon Boshi and Hilton Mudariki who are in the Goshawks,” Middleton said. “This will bolster the development side while also allowing them to play a leading role in the team.
“There’s an important dynamic which I’m looking for which is, rather than having them seat on the bench or play three minutes before the end of the game we have named them into the Goshawks for them to lead that squad and show us what they are capable of,” Middleton said.
Cheetahs captain Jacques Leitao also bounced back in the side after missing the team’s last assignment at the Nelson Mandela Bay Sevens in Port Elizabeth, South Africa in December.
South Africa-based forward Biselele Tshamala and back-liners Lenience Tambwera, who made their debuts in South Africa, also retained their places in the squad.
The Cheetahs will play in Group One with Hong Kong, Russia’s development team and Zambia while Group Two features Georgia, Goshawks, Russia and the defending champions South Africa.
Cheetahs Squad: Biselele Tshamala, Jacques Leitao (c), Njabulo Ndlovu, Stephen Hunduza, Lenience Tambwera, Tangai Nemadire, Tafadzwa Chitokwindo, Fortunate Chipendu, Boyd Rouse, Kilvan Magunje, Benjamin Nicholls, Gardner Nechironga
Goshawks: Lucky Sithole, Farai Jijita, Takudzwa Kumadiro, Tadius Hwata, Hilton Mudariki (c), Kuda Makwasha, Brandon Boshi, Japhet Ndebele, Riaan O’Neill, Craig Elcombe, Lloyd Muchanjaira, Brian Dube