Moscow lessons for Cheetahs

HARARE – The Zimbabwe Sevens rugby team failed to repeat the heroics of 2009 by bundling out in the Plate quarterfinal at the just ended IRB Sevens World Cup which was held in Moscow, Russia.

Zimbabwe’s painful 26-17 loss to Samoa ended in controversial circumstances when two crucial decisions went the way of the Pacific islanders.

A lot of lessons can be drawn from this failed World Cup bid by Gilbert Nyamutsamba’s men, who only registered one win in Moscow against minnows Philippines.

In the past, Zimbabwe struggled on the physical aspect of sevens rugby as generally most of the players in this part of the world are of a small stature.

But during the weekend in Moscow it was a totally different case as the Cheetahs’ players were very strong at the breakdown and forced quite a number turn over’s at mauls against massively built Samoans.

The Cheetahs’ defensive pattern seemed to be getting better although it showed some glitches against a very quick Kenyan side which literally had field day in the group encounter.

One worrying aspect of Zimbabwe’s game is in open play where over the years it has been the team’s major strength.

The Cheetahs boast of quite a number of skilful backs and speedster’s.

In Russia, the Cheetahs’ backline seemed to be stuck in their shells a bit and failed to utilise the vast space available in the field.

Wes Mbanje, who was one of the six survivors from the 2009 World Cup squad, has been the Cheetahs outright gasman had a pretty quite tournament by his high standard.

The Cheetahs’ playmaker played the entire tournament with a heavily strapped knee as a result of a series of injuries he has suffered over the past year.

Mbanje looked uncomfortable throughout the three days and it seems like he was rushed back into action before he has fully recovered.

A lot of the Cheetahs’ passes did not go to hand and the team was ruthlessly punished for these handling errors by their opponents.

The passes that went to hand the majority time were aimless which kept the side on the back foot without gaining any territory.

The tournament in Moscow was the last edition of the Sevens World Cup as it will be replaced by the Olympics Sevens in 2016.

With their showing over the last weekend, Zimbabwe needs to regroup and map a way forward as the majority of their squad is ageing and there is need to blood in new players if they are to make an impact in Rio De Janeiro.

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