What could have been?

HARARE - With a virtually nonexistent local rugby league and very little incentives available for players an optimist would have given Zimbabwe Sevens rugby team a chance at the Hong Kong Sevens.

But against all expectation, the Cheetahs rose to the occasion.

Leading Russia 19-17 in the final, Zimbabwe were only seconds away from gaining World Rugby Sevens core status which would have transformed the fortunes of the game back home.

The Cheetahs got to this stage by claiming the scalp of Guyana, Tonga and Spain before storming into the finals against Russia on the back of impressive displays from Hong Kong Sevens Qualifier man-of-the-tournament Tafadzwa Chitokwindo.

Unfortunately, what will not be remembered is that the team’s preparations were far from world class.

Many will only recall the moment the final was won and lost.

And how centre Rian O’Neill, who scored a brilliant try against Tonga, missed a tackle on Russia’s Yury Gostyuzhev to allow the European side to steal victory from the jaws of impeding defeat.

But amid all these what if’s, in a high intense sport such as Sevens rugby it is all down to mental strength and unfortunately inexperience caught up with the Cheetahs, who were guilty of celebrating just a second too early.

It will be another year in the wilderness before the Cheetahs have another shot at attempting to make it amongst the 15 World Rugby Sevens core teams.

Daniel Hondo, on whose broad shoulders the task of leading Zimbabwe to core status was given, was gutted after the match.

“I guess it’s back to the drawing board but we leave Hong Kong a happy bunch because we played well even though we were unlucky,” he said.

“The goal is still to qualify for core status and we will stay focused on that but for now we are looking at getting into the Olympics so we are looking forward to starting that process. I am generally pleased with our performance throughout the weekend.”

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