The Sunday Mail
Mehluli Sibanda in Johannesburg, South Africa
ZIMBABWE claimed the bronze at this year’s Rugby Africa Men’s Sevens which concluded yesterday at Bosman Stadium in Johannesburg, with the Cheetahs failing to secure direct qualification to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
The Cheetahs, defending champions at this year’s competition, beat Madagascar 24-7 in the tournament’s third place playoff, with the result good enough to send them to next year’s repechage qualifier.
Runners-up Uganda are also going to the repechage, which will be staged in June next year.
Zimbabwe and Uganda also booked a spot in the World Series qualifiers tournament, which will be staged in South America early next year.
Kenya won the tournament with a 29-0 triumph over Uganda in an East African decider to determine the winner of the direct ticket to the Olympics.
It was a disappointing end for Gilbert Nyamutsamba’s men.
During the two-day tournament, the Cheetahs only suffered one defeat in a 21-12 loss to Uganda in the semi-finals, and that defeat made the difference.
Nyamutsamba feels the Rugby Africa Men’s Sevens was a difficult tournament for his team, with the end result not what they desired.
However, he was impressed with their performance.
“Most definitely a tough tournament, not the best of results that we would have wanted but having said that, I am actually happy with the way the team progressed from a slow start to their last game,” Nyamutsamba said.
With the Cheetahs standing a chance of qualifying for the Olympics, Nyamutsamba is begging for continuity, which can only be achieved if his players are afforded more game time as they gear up for the repechage.
“By winning the bronze, we have qualified for four more international tournaments, one which is still an Olympic qualifier, so we still have another chance.
“Continuity is key. We need to continue on this path and give the team a bit more game time as we build up to the repechage in June. The extra tournaments we get before that are going to make a big difference,’’ he said.
Cheetahs captain Stephan Hunduza said the team found it hard to accept the Uganda defeat.
However, he said they quickly got over it and went on to put up a good perfomance against Madagascar.
“Losing in the semis was a hard pill for us to swallow. However, we spoke about it and managed to come and play the third place playoff. We have another chance again and I am sure the guys are ready to go for it. It’s time to go back to the drawing board and make sure we get it right this time around,’’ Hunduza said.
In the third place playoff, wing Tafadzwa Chitokwindo scored the first try, with Hilton Mudariki coming in with the conversion.
Prop Tapiwa Tsomondo powered his way over the line for Zimbabwe’s second.
Chitokwindo sprinted on the left wing for his second try of the match.
Zimbabwe led 17-0 going into halftime.
Two minutes after the break, Chitokwindo turned provider when he offloaded to Hunduza to score the fourth try for the Cheetahs.
When they played against Uganda, Zimbabwe were the first to score as Mudariki went over for an unconverted try. However, Zimbabwe conceded two tries, which saw the East Africans leading 14-5 at halftime.
Uganda scored again at the start of the second half to lead 21-5.
Speedster Chitokwindo showed some glimpses of brilliance when he burst through to score a try but it was already too late as the Ugandans held on for victory.
Zimbabwe had come out of the group stage with a 100 brilliant record after wins over Nigeria (47-0), Zambia (19-7) and Madagascar (15-12).