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Cheetahs hunt for core status

GRANT MITCHEL, the former Zimbabwe Sevens rugby team stalwart has backed the Cheetahs to do well at the 12-team IRB World Sevens Series Pre-Qualifier at the Hong Kong Sevens which kicks off today.

DANIEL NHAKANISO

In an interview with IndependentSport this week, Mitchel said the Cheetahs were well prepared for the task ahead, having been in camp together since January.

“The Cheetahs have been through a more structured training and pre-tournament preparation system than they have had in recent seasons. With the grouping of locally based players in Harare they have been allowed to prepare as a unit for a more consistent period of time.

In any team sport this is hugely important,” said the Red Seal Old Georgians coach.

Realising the significance of the upcoming tournaments in Hong Kong and London ahead of the Sevens Rugby World Cup in June, the Zimbabwe Sevens franchise decided to contract some of their key players at the start of the year in January.

Mitchel, who played alongside most of the key players in the current Cheetahs squad before his international retirement, said this had steered the players to strive to do well for the national side and has also created a “healthy” competition for places in the team.

“The contracting of some players has strengthened the accountability of their preparation and performances on the field. There seems to be a healthy level of competition for places in the squad and this is good,” said Mitchel, regarded as one of the best strength and conditioning coaches in the country.

The Cheetahs who are in Pool G alongside Mexico, Cook Islands and Russia will need to finish in the top four of the 12-team qualifying competition to earn a place at the London leg of the series in May.

The other non-core teams which will be hoping to secure core status are Tonga, Uruguay, Tunisia and Chinese Taipei (Pool E) and Japan, Georgia, Jamaica and Brazil (Pool F).

In London, the four qualifiers from Hong Kong, and the bottom three teams from the current series and other non-core teams, will battle it out for three slots on the World Sevens Series core team list for next season.

Cheetahs Squad: Fortune Chipendu, Jacques Leitao (captain), Lucky Sithole, Kelvin Magunje, Tafadzwa Chitokwindo, Gardner Nechironga, Tangai Nemadire, Tapiwa Tsomondo, Njabulo Ndlovu, Daniel Hondo (vice-captain), Wes Mbanje, Garth Ziegler

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