Last Sunday the Cheetahs failed to secure a place on the IRB World Sevens Series circuit as a core member. Needing to finish in the top three of the second-tier 12-team qualifying tournament, the team narrowly lost 21-17 to Portugal in the quarterfinals.
The result all but ended any hopes the Cheetahs had of joining the elite teams of the World Sevens Series, which would have been a giant leap for the team towards becoming a professional outfit.
In an interview with IndependentSport, team manager Bruce Hobson said they would probably give some of the younger players in the team playing time in upcoming tournaments.
“Obviously the ultimate goal for us remains the 2016 Olympics in Brazil and next year’s Sevens Rugby World Cup in Russia,” said Hobson. “To remain competitive we have to make sure that we have enough depth.
“I believe we have a strong team but there are also some exciting young prospects and we might give them a chance in England and Scotland because some of the key players will have other commitments.”
The move could see players such as Gweru Sports Club’s Kilvan Magunje, South Africa-based John McWade and Tafadzwa Chitokwindo bouncing back after missing the Hong Kong trip.
There were great expectations among local rugby fans prior to the Hong Kong Sevens tournament but it turned into an anticlimax as the Cheetahs lost their opening match 19-5 to Spain.
The team however recovered to beat Canada and the Philippines in the remaining Pool E matches to qualify for the quarterfinals where they eventually lost to Portugal.The Portuguese joined Spain and Canada as the top three finishers and will join an expanded 15-team top tier World Sevens Series next year, and in the process receive enhanced IRB funding.
The Cheetahs, who will have another chance to qualify for core membership at next year’s Hong Kong leg, have shifted focus to the London and Scotland legs of the series, where they have been invited for the first time.
The Emirates Airline Glasgow Sevens — the eighth and penultimate round of the HSBC Sevens World Series — takes place from May 5-6 in Scotland followed by the Marriott London Sevens a week later in England.
Soon after the assignments in Europe, the Cheetahs will shift their attention to the 2013 Rugby Sevens World Cup qualifiers set for Morocco from September 27-29.