By Sports Reporter
ZIMBABWE’S national Sevens rugby team will step up their preparations for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games qualifiers when they take part in the Zambia International Sevens rugby tournament which kicks off in Lusaka Friday.
The Cheetahs, who this week named a strong squad with a blend of experienced players and some of the country’s fledgling stars, will be joined at the two-day event by the hosts Zambia, Lesotho, Botswana, Namibia, Malawi and a host of provincial teams from South Africa.
The Zambia International Sevens will be another opportunity for the Cheetahs to test themselves in a competitive tournament as they prepare to defend their Africa Cup Sevens crown at this year’s continental event to be held in South Africa from November 8-9.
This year’s Africa Cup Sevens tournament doubles as the qualifier for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games with the winner automatically qualifying for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic rugby sevens competition is due to take place from July 27 to August 1 at Tokyo Stadium.
Cheetahs coach Gilbert Nyamutsamba said the Zambia tourney was an ideal platform to prepare for the Olympic Games qualifiers, given his team’s limited game time this season.
Nyamutsamba’s team was last in action at the Harare International Sevens held in March and the Hong Kong Sevens, a month later, while efforts to participate in tournaments in Georgia and Italy during the winter did not come to fruition due to lack of funds.
“Obviously we were not able to compete in the Rome and George Sevens due to financial constrains so the Zambia International Sevens is very important for us as it forms part of our preparations for the Africa Cup Sevens which will double as the qualifiers for the Olympic games. We’ve got a balanced squad of experienced players and a number of youngsters and I am confident that the team will do well,” Nyamutsamba said ahead of the team’s departure for Zambia on Thursday.
The Cheetahs squad features a number of experienced players such as Zambia-based captain Stephan Hunduza, Romania-based centre Ngoni Chibuwe and South Africa-based forwards Biselele Tshamala and Njabulo Ndlovu.
After this weekend’s Zambia International Sevens, Zimbabwe will turn their attention to the Maseru Sevens in Lesotho (September 21 – 22) and the Safaricom 7s to be held in Nairobi, Kenya from October 3 to 4 before the Olympic Games qualifier in November.
Zimbabwe Cheetahs Squad: Nelson Madida, Andrea Banda, Tarisai Mugariri, Kudzai Mashawi, Stephan Hunduza, Theo Goredema, Biselele Tshamala, Shingi Katsvere, Ngoni Chibuwe, Ganizani Chiku, Takudzwa Kumadiro, Njabulo Ndlovu
Coach: Gilbert Nyamutsamba
Team manager: Simbarashe Danga
Physiotherapist: Anne Batau