The Cheetahs need to finish in the top three of the new qualifying section of the annual Cathay Pacific HSCB Hong Kong Sevens tournament which runs from today until Sunday to ensure they receive the desired core status.
The status will allow them to compete at the highest level in the lead up to the Sevens’ Olympic debut at the 2016 Summer Games in Brazil.
The finer details of the qualifying process for the 12-team Olympic field are yet to be determined, but a place on the HSBC World Sevens Series would be the ideal preparatory platform.
While the likes of New Zealand, South Africa and 10 other existing core teams slug it out starting Friday in Pools A, B and C, Canada and 11 other countries will be looking to climb the ladder in Pools, D, E and F.
Until the start of this season when the Cheetahs were invited to two more legs in London and Scotland, they were limited to legs in Hong Kong, Dubai and South Africa. Should they secure one of the three qualifying spots, this would see them taking part in other legs in Australia, New Zealand, USA and Japan.
Zimbabwe is in Pool E alongside Spain, Canada and the Philippines.
The other teams vying for core-team status include Tonga, Uruguay, hosts Hong Kong and China in Pool D, and Guyana, Japan, Portugal, Russia and Tonga in Pool F.
Wary of the significance of the task ahead, Zimbabwe has stuck to its experienced players while Spain and Portugal put their 15-man programmes on hold to prepare.
Japan has strengthened its squad with World Cup veterans while Canada — who lost their core status three years ago — were the first to arrive in Hong Kong last Friday while other teams started arriving on Monday.
The Cheetahs open their campaign today against Spain before taking on Canada and Philippines tomorrow. The goal is to finish in the top two in Pool E to advance to the quarter-finals.
Sunday’s two finalists and the winner of the third-place playoff in qualifying will secure core team status and join the 12 existing core teams at each round of the 2012-13 season, starting in Australia in October.
Squad: Fortune Chipendu, Jacques Leitao, Njabulo Ndlovu, Jacques Coles, Manasah Sita, Mike Morris, Graham Kulback, Tangai Nemadire, Daniel Hondo, Gardner Nechironga, Gerald Sibanda, Wes Mbanje
Coach: Gilbert Nyamutsamba
Manager: Bruce Hobson