THE party is over for the Zimbabwe Sevens rugby team.
After clinching the Bowl Trophy at the Sevens World Cup in Dubai a fortnight ago, the Cheetahs now shift focus to the Hong Kong Sevens next week where their main goal is to strengthen their case for inclusion on the IRB circuit.
Being an IRB circuit core nation comes with a rewarding berth in all eight tournaments of the IRB World Sevens Series, a grand-prix styled series played across the world in Dubai, South Africa, New Zealand, USA, Hong Kong, Australia, England and Scotland.
Currently Zimbabwe play in just three – in Dubai, South Africa and Hong Kong. Even before their Bowl victory in which they beat Ireland 17-14 in the final, the Cheetahs had always thought of themselves as worth a place on the circuit, so their chances would appear all the brighter now.
It is a wonderful opportunity for the IRB to build a legacy of development. Zimbabwe could be a shining example of that if the IRB are really serious about decentralising the game, as has already been seen in Kenya. Before admission into the circuit, the Kenyans were constantly beaten by Zimbabwe on the continent, but have created a huge gulf since they started playing with the big boys often. They have upset the Sevens Springboks and the All Blacks in the recent past, and they keep improving as a side.
With rugby in Zimbabwe more established than in Kenya, a higher Sevens exposure would certainly revive the game in the country and the new ZRU executive should be aggressive in pursuit of that goal.
In Hong Kong, the Cheetahs are drawn in Pool C with giants New Zealand and Australia and Asian minnows Sri Lanka. While they will have to play tremendously well to get a result from the trans-Tasmanian rivals, they will thoroughly enjoy inflicting revenge on Sri Lanka – on behalf of their cricket counterparts! – Staff Writer.