Hard work pays off for Cheetahs

HARARE - After failing to defend their Spar Harare International Rugby Sevens title a fortnight ago, the Zimbabwe Rugby Sevens technical team was under pressure to do well in Hong Kong.

To their credit, Gilbert Nyamustamba and his technical team did their homework thoroughly as it evidently showed with their success in Hong Kong Sevens pre-qualifying tournament.

The Cheetahs made huge strides towards obtaining International Rugby Board Sevens core status by winning the qualifiers cup with a 22-19 victory over Tonga in the final.

Cheetahs team manager, Bruce Hobson said: "We have been working hard since early January. We have high expectations, we raised the level in Harare a few weeks ago and we must be pleased with that win.”

Zimbabwe was right on the money right from their first game against Mexico as their handling was superb an area they had struggled with in the previous tournaments.

The Cheetahs ball retention was also superb and the players proved to be more clinical with ball in hand.

Zimbabwe followed that win over Mexico with another relative easy victory over the Cook Islands, who did not pose any threat.

Utility Forward Fortunate Chipendu was able to silence his growing band of critics with an impressive performance as he rarely put a foot wrong during the weekend in Hong Kong.

Chipendu was terrific in the air and won a lot of vita aerial balls for Zimbabwe from kick-off.

Nyamustamba’s gamble of not involving in most games outright gas man Wes Mbanje, who just recovered from an injury, paid off as speedster Tafadzwa Chitokwindo and Gardner Nechirongo stepped up to the plate.

Italy-based Gareth Ziegler, who had a dismal outing in the Nelson Mandela Bay leg of the series, justified his inclusion this time around.

Ziegler pierced a lot of opponents defence together with his midfield partner Daniel Hondo as they were involved in a lot of try assists.

University of Western Cape student Njabulo Ndlovu’s ball carrying was also immense over the three days.

Nyamustamba tactics proved to be effective once more when he managed to reverse a 22-12 pool defeat to Russia by beating the same opponents 19-5 in the semi finals.

The Cheetahs will be looking to carry the momentum and good form into the final round of qualifiers scheduled for May 10-11 in London at Twickenham. - Brian Matamba

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