BY SPORTS REPORTER
THE Zimbabwe Rugby Union has announced a busy schedule for the national Sevens rugby side — the Cheetahs — ahead of a busy season in which they are targeting to qualify for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan.
After qualifying for the World Cup in the United States and being crowned African champions last year, the Cheetahs have set retaining the Africa Cup and securing qualification for the 2020 Olympics as their main targets during this year.
“The main goal for this year is Olympic qualification and all tournaments will be played in preparation for the Olympic qualifiers,” Cheetahs team manager Donald Mangenje said.
“We will endeavour to raise funds to fulfill all the tournaments that we have been invited to in order to prepare. We have also lined-up a few training camps subject to funding. The Africa Cup is arguably our most important tournament this year given the Olympic qualifiers.
This year’s Africa Cup Sevens tournament, which will double as the qualifier for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games will be held from November 8-9 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Zimbabwe narrowly missed qualification for the 2016 Rio Olympics after going down to Kenya in dramatic fashion four years ago and will be eager to make amends and also be part of the festivities in Japan.
The winner of the continental tournament will automatically qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic rugby sevens competition which is due to take place from July 27 to August 1 at Tokyo Stadium.
In a bid to ensure the team is adequately prepared for the qualifiers, Cheetahs head coach Gilbert Nyamutsamba and Mangenje have drawn up an audacious plan in which they are looking to build a side that will triumph in South Africa.
Having already featured in the Harare International Sevens held in March and the Hong Kong Sevens, a month later, the Cheetahs have lined up five preparatory tournaments.
The Cheetahs will get their busy season underway by featuring in the Georgia Sevens in Tbilisi from June 8-9 as they seek revenge against the Eastern European side which beat them in the final of the Harare International Sevens on home soil in March.
Nyamutsamba’s charges will then head to Italy for this year Rome Sevens which will be held from June 22 to 23. The Cheetahs made their debut at the Rome Sevens last year where they lost to hosts Italy 17-14 in the final.
After the Rome Sevens, the Cheetahs will take a three- month break before returning to action at the Windhoek Draught 7s in Lusaka, Zambia, from September 6-7.
The Cheetahs are also hoping to participate at the Maseru Sevens in Lesotho (September 21 – 22) and the Safaricom 7s to be held in Nairobi, Kenya, from October 3 to 4 before the Olympic Games qualifier in November.
Meanwhile, the Zimbabwe Rugby Academy suffered their heaviest defeat in this year’s SuperSport Rugby Challenge after going down 66-10 to Free State at False Bay Rugby Club in Cape Town yesterday.