The Zimbabwe rugby Sevens flagship team, the Cheetahs, are relishing the opportunity to play in front of their fans and possibly scoop the top honours when they host the 2014 Confederation of African Rugby Sevens Africa Cup later this month.
By OUR STAFF
Twelve countries namely Kenya Uganda, Tunisia, Nigeria, Madagascar, Namibia, Botswana, Senegal, Zambia, Ivory Coast, South Africa and hosts Zimbabwe will be part of the rugby festivities set for November 20 to 30 at Harare Sports Club.
Winning the tournament or finishing the highest ranked non-core member would mean that the Gilbert Nyamutsamba-coached side remains on course to attain IRB Sevens core membership status by qualifying to the next leg, the Hong Kong World Sevens Series next year.
Cheetahs captain and utility forward, Jacques Leitao told Standardsport what it means for the team to host such a massive African rugby event.
“It means a lot to play in front of the home crowd, it had been a long time since we had hosted a match and just this opportunity to play with our local fans rallying behind us is priceless,” Leitao said.
“Of course the main prize is to qualify for Hong Kong next year but we are looking to win this tournament as hosts and it’s a lot easier when you are playing at home.
“Our chances of winning are very high, we are going to play some good opposition especially with South Africa and Kenya in the tournament, we are above all the other African countries and we have to find a way of showing our quality against South Africa and Kenya but our chances are much better than the last time we won it,” he added.
Zimbabwe’s perpetual quest for Sevens rugby core status came to a crashing halt after a 12-17 defeat to Italy in the Hong Kong, late March this year despite impressive performances in the group phase with victories over Barbados, Chile and Russia.
Rivals South Africa and Kenya are both International Rugby Board (IRB) Sevens core members and Zimbabwe are bidding to become the third African country to attain the lucrative core status.
The Cheetahs squad is yet to be named until the conclusion of the ongoing annual club Sevens Summer Series currently underway.
“The Sevens Summer Series is a very good preparation for the CAR tournament as it gives the locally based players the opportunity to be picked for the national team, we do have great talent in the team, a lot of young players trying to put their hands up and I think the future can only be great,” said Leitao.
Zimbabwe have been drawn in Pool A alongside group favourites Kenya, Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria, Namibia and Uganda while South Africa leads Pool B with Tunisia, Zambia, Senegal and Madagascar.