STILL basking in the glory of his team’s success at the recent Africa Men’s Sevens in Tunisia, Zimbabwe national Sevens rugby team coach Gilbert Nyamutsamba is relishing the opportunity to compete against the best sides in the world after being handed a tough draw for next month’s Dubai Sevens.
BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
As one of the perks for winning the Africa Men’s Sevens, the Cheetahs are the only team outside the core sides invited to play in 2018/19 World Rugby Sevens Series opening tournament to be played at The Sevens Stadium in Dubai from November 30 to December 1.
The Cheetahs will face neighbours South Africa, who are looking for a third successive World Series title, in their first match of theZimbabwe will also face Samoa and Argentina in Pool A of the tournament, which starts off another demanding season for the Cheetahs in their bid to become a core member on the World Rugby Sevens Series.
Nyamutsamba believes that while his team faces a tough task on their return to the Dubai Sevens for the first time in seven years, the high calibre of opponents they will face will only benefit them in the long run.
“Either way we were always gonna be in a group with either the current World Series champions South Africa, Olympic gold medalist Fiji, World Cup champions New Zealand or England, who were the runners-up at the World Cup,” Nyamutsamba said. “It is as expected and it’s what we need, to go against the world’s best even if we get beat, but most importantly get up and live to fight another day. It’s the only way we can get to where we want to be.”
The Dubai Sevens presents an opportunity for the Cheetahs to build some momentum ahead of their participation in the Cape Town leg of the World Series
However, the major focus will be on next year’s Hong Kong Sevens, where they will battle against the other lower ranked teams to become a core member on the Sevens World Series as well as the qualifiers for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games. The Cheetahs defied the odds to overcome a catalogue of problems to be crowned Africa Cup Sevens champions in Tunisia with a 17-5 triumph over Kenya in the final.
Meanwhile, South Africa coach Neil Powell, who has enjoyed tremendous success during his spell at the helm of the Blitzbokke has backed Zimbabwe and the other lower ranked teams to put on a good show at the Dubai Sevens.
“We have seen the gap between teams disappearing to almost nothing, so every game in every tournament will demand a very good effort from us,” Powell said in a statement on Wednesday. “Zimbabwe will be very competitive, having won the Rugby Africa Sevens tournament recently, Samoa beat us last time we played them, and Argentina are one of the most difficult teams to play again because of their skill and physicality.”
Dubai Sevens draw
Pool A: South Africa, Argentina, Samoa, Zimbabwe
Pool B: Fiji, Kenya, Scotland, France
Pool C: New Zealand, US, Spain, Wales
Pool D: Australia, England, Canada, Japan