ZIMBABWE’S national Sevens rugby side face a stern test in their first appearance on the new HSBC Sevens World Series season, after being handed a tough draw for the Cape Town Sevens to be played at the Cape Town Stadium on Saturday and Sunday.
BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
The Cheetahs, who recently missed out on automatic qualification for next year’s Olympic Games, were drawn with hosts South Africa, England and Kenya in Pool B for the second leg of the HSBC Sevens World Series.
The draw for the Cape Town Sevens was made on Saturday evening, before the Cup final at the opening round of the series in Dubai, with eventual winners Fiji heading Pool A, which features Argentina, Scotland and Russia.
Pool C features the United States, Australia, Wales and Portugal, while New Zealand will battle it out in Pool D alongside Samoa, France and Canada, who are coached by former Zimbabwe coach Liam Middleton.
Zimbabwe will be the only non-core side at the tournament, as they participate in just two legs of the 10-legged circuit — which takes teams to 10 different cities across the world.
“We are the only non-core side at the tournament. So every group was always going to be tough for us, but at the same time, it’s an opportunity for the lads to make an impression,” Cheetahs head coach, Danny Hondo said of the draw.
“It’s an opportunity to show the progress we have made. But we need to take it one game at a time.”
The Cheetahs, who leave the country for Cape Town this morning, will be without three key players, Manasah Sita, Tafadzwa Chitokwindo and Kilvan Magunje.
The duo of Sita and Magunje miss out due to academic commitments, while Chitokwindo is unavailable after suffering a knee injury while in action for the Sables at the Hong Kong Cup of Nations last month.
Hondo, however, welcomes back skipper Hilton Mudariki, who has now fully recovered from a hamstring injury, while winger Kudakwashe Chiwanza and Takudzwa Francisco also make a return, also having missed out on the Olympic qualifiers.
The Cape Town Sevens will be the Cheetahs’ only appearance on the HSBC Sevens World Series before the Hong Kong Sevens in March next year, where they will be vying for core team status on the lucrative circuit.
The Cheetahs will also feature in the 16-team Rio Olympic Games qualifying playoff tournament to be held on June 18 and 19 next year.
Cheetahs Squad: Hilton Mudariki (captain), Jacques Leitao, Njabulo Ndlovu, Tapiwa Tsomondo, Riaan O’Neill, Kudakwashe Chiwanza, Boyd Rouse, Graham Kaulback, Stephan Hunduza, Lenience Tambwera, Shayne Makombe, Takudzwa Francisco
The Cape Town Sevens draw
Pool A: Fiji, Argentina, Scotland, Russia
Pool B: England, South Africa, Kenya, Zimbabwe
Pool C: USA, Australia, Wales, Portugal
Pool D: New Zealand, Samoa, France, Canada