CONTINENTAL bragging rights will be at stake for Zimbabwe and Kenya at the IRB Sevens Rugby World Cup (WC) in Russia in June after the two continental rivals were pooled together in Group C in a draw conducted for the global showpiece in Moscow yesterday.
Report by Daniel Nhakaniso
The matchup of the two African giants was one of the highlights of the pool draw for this year’s edition, the last global championship before the sport makes its Olympic Games debut.
Besides Kenya, Zimbabwe’s Sevens rugby side popularly known as the Cheetahs is joined in Pool C with group favourites Samoa and the Philippines.
Cheetahs’ head coach Gilbert Nyamutsamba admitted in an interview with Independent Sport yesterday that the match against Kenya was probably the highlight of their draw.
“We were eagerly waiting to see whom we would be drawn with at the World Cup and we now know what to expect come June,” said Nyamutsamba.
“There are no easy draws at the World Cup because every team there has earned its place, so we won’t take any team lightly and neither will we go there fearing any team.
“Playing Kenya is an exciting prospect, we have played against them a few times on the World Series and it has always been a spectacle.
“They have beaten us a few times but we have also recorded some famous wins against them recently, so the fact that we will meet them at the World Cup makes it quite special.”
Apart from Kenya, the Cheetahs face another tough battle against Dubai Sevens champions, Samoa.
Nyamutsamba’s men will, however, fancy themselves against minnows Philippines, but he warned against underrating the South East Asian nation.
“Obviously Samoa are one of the top teams in the world in Sevens rugby and should be one of the favourites to win the World Cup, but will be up for the challenge and we will give it our best.
“(The) Philippines, on the other hand, are an unknown quantity as they do not play on the World Series but that makes them a tricky proposition and we won’t be underrating them at all,” he said.
The Cheetahs have a chance to test their preparedness before the global showpiece in next month’s Zimbabwe International Sevens Tournament from March 9-10 before the Hong Kong Sevens from March 22-24. Zimbabwe will make their fourth appearance at the Sevens Rugby World Cup in Moscow, having qualified for three previous editions in 1991, 2001 and 2009.
At the 2009 edition in Dubai the Cheetahs won the Bowls title and survivors from that team include prolific dreadlocked wing Wes Mbanje, skipper Jacques Leitao, Tangai Nemadire, Fortune Chipendu and Gerald Sibanda.
Meanwhile defending champions Wales will face a tough battle to retain their men’s crown, as they take on southern hemisphere rivals Fiji and Tonga along with Uruguay in Pool E.
Pool A Australia, France, Spain, Tunisia; Pool B South Africa, Scotland, Russia, Japan; Pool C Samoa, Kenya, Zimbabwe, Philippines; Pool D New Zealand, US, Canada, Georgia.