ZIMBABWE’s sad rugby tale continues as the senior Sevens side, the Cheetahs will have to face a tricky repechage tournament to book a spot in the 2016 Summer Olympics slated for Rio de Jenero in Brazil in August.
The 2016 Summer Olympics will mark the return of Sevens rugby at the Games since the 1924 Summer Olympics. The Cheetahs last weekend came agonizingly close to sealing their fate the easy way after taking the lead 12—7 into the break of the final against Kenya.
However, the same dark cloud that denied the 15s senior side, the Sables, a spot in the 2015 Rugby World Cup, eclipsed the Cheetahs and in the end went down 19—21 from a last-minute try by Kenya’s Dennis Ombachi. While Sevens rugby has predominantly been the strength of Zimbabwean rugby due to the wide-ranging options of utility back players in the country, the repechage tournament will not be a walkover.
There is only one spot for all the 16 teams competing in the repechage tournament slated for June next year. The 16 teams will comprise of regional qualifiers with four from Europe, three from Africa, three from Asia, two from Oceania, two from North America and two from South America.
Zimbabwe, Morocco and Tunisia will be the three African teams competing in the tournament.
Cheetahs coach Daniel Hondo on Monday said his side performed exceptionally well all the way but was just unfortunate to go down in the dying minutes.
He however said for the Cheetahs not to suffer the same fate like the Sables in the RWC repechage qualifiers, players should be incentivized just like what is done for soccer players during qualifiers for regional and international tournaments.
“The team played its hearts out all the way to the end of the final. To say they let their guard down is not true but they were just unlucky to concede a try in the dying minutes,” said the former Cheetahs and Sables player.
“The repechage tournament will obviously be tough given that we will be pitted against international sides for one opening. Our national side rugby players are always sacrificing and playing for the love of the game. But I think it is high time the corporate world and Government incentivize the players at such international junctures. The potential to win at the repechage is there but players need a morale booster come June 2016,” said Hondo.
Last year, the Sables after narrowly losing 20—24 to Namibia in the final of the 2015 RWC African qualifiers, they went on to lose 23—15 to Russia, in the repechage qualifiers played in Siberia.
Rugby critics again felt the side could have defeated Russia and proceeded to face Uruguay in the decider if more had been done to incentivize the players back home. Zimbabwe Rugby Union Manicaland chairman Richard Chiwandire concurred and called for the new Sport and Recreation Minister Makhosini Hlongwane to drive the agenda.
Zimbabwe Sevens Rugby Team collated results Pool B results: Zimbabwe 31—12 Nigeria, Zimbabwe 48—0 Zambia, Zimbabwe 43—0 Uganda Quarter-finals: Zimbabwe 27—10 Nigeria Semi-finals: Zimbabwe 26—0 Morocco Final: Zimbabwe 19-21 Kenya.