Young Cheetahs settle for bronze

GABORONE - The Zimbabwe Under-18 Sevens rugby team blew hot and cold here on Saturday before eventually doing enough to settle for bronze at the ongoing Africa Youth Olympic Games.

Having started so brightly with three wins from their opening three matches on Friday, the Young Cheetahs were favourites to meet South Africa in the finals with some neutrals tipping them to cause an upset.

In the group stages, the young Zimbabweans had been untouchable blowing away Tunisia 33-7 in their first game before edging Namibia 14-5.

They concluded their pool action by crushing the hosts 39-5 to book their place in yesterday’s final against continental rivals Kenya.

But the Young Cheetahs proved to be their own worst enemy after falling 17-12 to the Central Africans in the semi-final staged at the University of Botswana Stadium.

The Daniel Hondo-coached side were guilty of making elementary mistakes as they missed tackles and poor handling with the Kenyans taking full advantage.

Two late tries from scrumhalf Ernest Mudzengerere however, ensured the Zimbabweans go into the third and fourth play-off with their pride intact.

The Connor Pritchard-captained side duly bounced back to beat Namibia 22-14 to land the bronze medal.

Hondo praised his charges for picking themselves up after a timid performance against Kenya.

“I think the guys stepped up especially after the Kenya game. We owed ourselves a medal so we went out there and we did it,” he told the Daily News on Sunday.

“The first game we played Namibia in the group stages, it was a close game so we knew they would not be pushovers and beating a team that you have beaten before shows character.”

The former Cheetahs player feels the Sevens game in Zimbabwe has a bright future.

“I think we have a lot young kids who could be good sevens players but it’s about creating the system.”

Meanwhile, Kenya went on to be humiliated 60-0 by South Africa in a one-sided final.

The flawless victory meant that Young Blitzbokke side finished the entire tournament without conceding a single try underlining South Africa’s credentials as the continent’s rugby powerhouse.

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