The Zimbabwe Sevens Rugby team started their quest for Olympic qualification with a perfect record of three straight wins as the 2015 Rugby Africa Men’s Sevens Olympic Qualifier kicked off at the Barnard Stadium in Johannesburg, South Africa yesterday.
BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
Impressive victories over Nigeria (31-12), Zambia (48-0) and Uganda (43-0) saw the Cheetahs not only end the opening day with a 100% record, but also remain on course in their goal to qualify for next year’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro.
The three victories saw the Cheetahs finishing top of Pool B and qualifying for the Cup quarter-finals where they will play Nigeria and ensure the mouth-watering prospect of a final against Sevens powerhouses Kenya awaits.
The Cheetahs — who are aiming to become the second local team to qualify for next year’s Olympics — initially, got off to a rather slow start in their opening match against Nigeria, with mistakes at regular intervals stopping them from playing any free-flowing rugby.
Some lapses of concentration in defence saw the Cheetahs conceding two tries, but they made up with some enterprising play, going forward as they ran in four tries, courtesy of Boyd Rouse, Manasah Sita, Tafadzwa Chitokwindo and Tapiwa Tsomondo.
After a rather unconvincing start, the Cheetahs rose to the occasion and impressed in the second match against Zambia, led by an impressive hat-trick from Sharks Under-21 star Riaan O’Neill.
Zimbabwe scored five more tries in the match through skipper Jacques Leitao, Chitokwindo, Stepan Hunduza, Njabulo Ndlovu and Tsomondo as the Zambians appeared to have no plan against the Danny Hondo-coached side.
The Cheetahs saved their best for last with a clinical perfomance against Uganda, which won them plenty of new fans with a new style of play which should send a strong message to the Kenyans.
Uganda were expected to provide the toughest challenge to the Cheetahs, but proved no match for Hondo’s charges, who ran riot by scoring seven unanswered tries, courtesy of a brilliant hat-trick by Chitokwindo and further tries from Hunduza, O’Neil, Kilvan Magunje and Tsomondo.
Cheetahs day one results: Zimbabwe 31-12 Nigeria, Zimbabwe 48-0 Zambia, Zimbabwe 43-0 Uganda.
Today’s Cup quarter-finals: Kenya vs Madagascar (11:44am), Uganda v Tunisia (12:09pm), Namibia vs Morocco (12:34pm), Zimbabwe vs Nigeria (12:59pm).