A year after coming agonisingly close to snatching the all-important World Sevens Rugby core status ticket, the Zimbabwe Cheetahs visit Hong Kong again next month in a bid to finally come good and join the rugby sevens big league.
By Munyaradzi Madzokere
This year’s core status tournament has been slated for April 8-10 on the sidelines of the HSBC Hong Kong World Rugby Sevens Series.
Zimbabwe will have to battle it out with 12 other teams including Morocco, hosts Hong Kong, Japan, Germany, Spain, Cayman Islands, Mexico, Brazil, Chile, Papua New Guinea and Tonga
Cayman Islands will be making a debut appearance, while European giants Germany appear for the first time since 1992.
“If we are going there we are obviously going there to win and it will be unfortunate if we fail to win in the end, but basically at this tournament everyone has a chance to win,” Cheetahs coach Daniel Hondo said.
“The top teams this time around are Japan, Hong Kong as hosts, Spain and Chile, so it’s not going to be easy, but we will see how it goes. We are expecting to go past group stages and then give it our best shot in the knockout stages.”
Japan remains favourite to grab the lucrative permit to be part of World Series in the 2016-17 season having been part of the fraternity last year.
On the other hand, other countries will be wary of the Hondo-coached team who missed promotion by a whisker last year after Russia sneaked back to win the final right at the death.
Hondo believes his team has the same quality that propelled them to the decider 12 months ago.
“It’s really hard to say whether we have gotten stronger or better in the past year because we have only played two tournaments since then, but I reckon we are at the same level we were last year and anything is possible.
Hondo and his technical team will only announce their team for the Hong Kong trip after next week’s local Summer Sevens series with the squad set to convene camp on April 30.
The Cheetahs will leave the country for Asia on April 4, four days before the start of the tournament.
For the 12-team core status qualifier draw, the teams were divided into three groups of four teams each by World Rugby, based on their performances on the Series and at other international sevens events over the preceding two years.
Zimbabwe are in Pool E, alongside hosts Hong Kong, Germany and debutants the Cayman Islands, while Pool F comprises Spain, Chile, Papua New Guinea and Mexico.
Lining up in Pool G are Japan, Tonga, Brazil and Morocco.