The Sunday Mail
CHEETAHS coach Daniel Hondo has defended the decision to withdraw his charges from the Zimbabwe President’s XV squad that was hammered 62-0 by the Steval Pumas at Hartsfield on Friday.
The fear of losing some of his key men to injury just two weeks before the Hong Kong Sevens informed the call.
“We held an emergency meeting with the director of rugby Brighton Chivandire and Sables coach Cyprian Mandenge during which the issue was discussed.
“What you need to understand is that Sevens rugby has a relatively smaller pool of players from which to choose from, and as such one or two injuries could have had devastating repercussions on our preparations,” said Hondo.
He went on: “The Hong Kong Sevens are just two weeks away and later we have the Olympic qualifiers and we cannot afford to suffer any injuries whether long or short-term.
“What is at stake — core status and qualification for the Rio Olympics — is far more important than a simple friendly.
“This was not my decision alone, but one made after consultation and discussions with all the concerned parties.
“While some may argue the game would have afforded some of my charges game time, it’s important to highlight that the two types of rugby are very different.”
The decision to withdraw players saw the likes of Fortune Chipendo, Biselele Tshamala, Njabulo Ndlovu, Teddy Hwata, Lenience Tarembwa, Stephen Hunduza and Boyd Rouse missing out on Friday’s game.
The Cheetahs have been drawn in a tricky Pool E together with hosts Hong Kong, Germany and the Cayman Islands for the Sevens tournament in the Far East.
The Cayman Islands will be making their debut at the competition, and Hondo has said he will give the newcomers the respect they deserve.
“I believe it’s very fair group and we will take each game as it comes. That said, we maintain that the main goal will be to improve on last year’s performance and win it all rather than just making it to the finals.
“The Cayman Islands are new to the competition and as such we are trying to do as much research as possible on them. Hong Kong remain the biggest threat as they are on home turf and won’t want to disappoint their fans.
“Germany too are a good side and we won’t take them lightly given they will have done their homework on us too,” he said.
Hondo said preparations for the Hong Kong Sevens will resume next week.