By Enock Muchinjo
ZIMBABWE’S exclusion from the rugby World Sevens Series that is scheduled to kick off in Dubai in December has been described as a devastating blow to local sevens rugby.
Zimbabwe Sevens Rugby Union chairman Bruce Hobson said he had already written to the International Rugby Board (IRB) expressing his disappointment and seeking official explanation on why the country was not invited. The IRB, Hobson said, seems to have introduced a new unofficial format of inviting countries to the series.
“It also seems that there is a limit on African teams this year and the IRB have put more European teams in order to prepare them for the World Cup next year. However, what is disappointing is that the first two series tournaments have always been regarded as African tournaments,” Hobson said.
The Zimbabwe Cheetahs’ omission from the World Sevens Series, in which they have been regular participants, was largely influenced by their performance in the World Cup qualifying tournament played in Zambia in June.
The Cheetahs’ defeat to Uganda in the play-offs, after both sides had lost in the semi-finals, meant that the East Africans would be invited ahead of the Zimbabweans.
Hobson, who is also the Cheetahs’ team manager, claimed that if it had been communicated to them that the match against the Ugandans would be used as criterion for invitation to the World Sevens Series, his men would have played better than they did and could have beaten Uganda.
“Our players were demoralised after losing to Kenya in the semi-finals. They really wanted to go to the World Cup. Also, we had easily beaten Uganda the previous week in a more significant match in the Tusker Safari Sevens in Kenya,” said Hobson.
“There seems to be no official seeding in African sevens rugby and countries have always been invited on the basis of their superior rugby structures, which is what we have in Zimbabwe.”