Cheetahs set for inaugural Sevens Challenger Series

Cheetahs captain Stephan Hunduza

BY DANIEL NHAKANISO

ZIMBABWE’S national rugby sevens side is targeting an improved performance in their maiden appearance in the inaugural World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series which gets underway in Viña del Mar, Chile, this weekend as they seeks to atone for a difficult season in 2019.

The Cheetahs capped last year in disappointing fashion at the Rugby Africa Men’s Sevens held in South Africa in November.

Zimbabwe, who were the reigning champions heading into the continental tournament fared dismally, settling for third behind Kenya and Uganda to miss out on automatic qualification for this year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan.

Earlier in the year, the Cheetahs also struggled in the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series qualifying tournament in Hong Kong in April, while a loss to Botswana-based club Spartans in the Zambia Sevens marked a new low for the team.

After last year’s disappointment, the Cheetahs have an opportunity to atone for that in the two legs of the inaugural World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series.

The first of the two legs of the World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series will be played in Chile on Saturday and Sunday while the final leg is scheduled for Montevideo, Uruguay, from February 22 to 23. Zimbabwe rugby sevens skipper Stephan Hunduza said the infusion of fresh talent ahead of the tournament should galvanise the side as they seek at least a top eight finish in the 16-team tournament.

The top eight ranked teams after the two rounds in Chile and Uruguay are guaranteed a spot at the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series qualifier at the Hong Kong Sevens in April.

“We are targeting to get better as a team especially after the inclusion of young blood in the team,” Hunduza told NewsDay Sport in an interview after arrival in Chile yesterday. The Cheetahs were drawn in Pool D together with Brazil, Mexico and host nation Chile but Hunduza said they are not focusing on the pool draw, but to improve as a team.

“So far we are not worrying about the group that we are in but we are just aiming to play like what the Cheetahs are known for,” he said. The playmaker, who is one of the most experienced players in the side, welcomed the team’s preparatory training camp in South Africa, where they had an opportunity to receive tips from the legendary former Sables skipper Rockface Gurumani.

“The South African camp was very good, we got to mingle with South Africa-based legends of Zimbabwe rugby such as (Rockface) Gurumani inspired us a lot. He shared words of encouragement with us and we managed to do some gym work with him as he is someone who is into strength and conditioning. We learnt a lot and it was a great pleasure to work with him and I’m sure everyone got to learn a thing or two from the former Sables captain,” Hunduza said.

Cheetahs squad

Nelson Madida (Matabeleland Warriors), Emmanuel Zangari (Spartans, Botswana), Tapiwa Tsomondo (Boland, SA), Takudzwa Kumadiro (Old Georgians), Mkhululi Ndlela (Spartans), Shingirai Katsvere (Old Georgians), Martin Mangongo (SKRA Warsaw, Poland), Biselele Tshamala (Matabeleland Warriors), Hilton Mudariki (Harare Sports Club), Godknows Mavara (Spartans), Stephan Hunduza (Old Hararians), Riaan O’Neill (False Bay, SA)

Head coach: Gilbert Nyamutsamba
Physiotherapist: Margaret Gibson
Team manager: Donald Mangenje

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