When the glass is half-full

18 Sep, 2022 - 00:09 0 Views
When the glass is half-full

The Sunday Mail

Deputy Sports Editor

For the Fiji men’s rugby team, who were crowned kings with a fine win over defending champions New Zealand, and Australia’s women, who rallied to edge their New Zealand opponents, the just-ended Rugby World Cup Sevens was undoubtedly a huge success.

The same cannot be said for Zimbabwe’s Cheetahs, who just did enough to avoid the wooden spoon, and hosts South Africa, who were left disappointed by their fifth-place finish.

The Australian all-conquering women’s team edged New Zealand 24-22 in an enthralling final. The Aussies, who have dominated the Sevens circuit all year, completed a unique ‘triple crown’ of international triumphs with their World Cup title adding to their Commonwealth Games and World Series titles.

Two-time Olympic champions Fiji were on fire as they romped to a 29-12 victory over fancied New Zealand. For the Cheetahs, it was a mere repeat of their last dance at the World Cup in 2018 in San Francisco, United States.

Then, as now, Zimbabwe finished a disappointing 23rd out of the 24 teams.

In Cape Town, they recorded just one win — a 31-17 mauling of Jamaica to avoid last place.

The Cheetahs’ performance has somewhat divided opinion, as some have called for the heads of coach Graham Kaulback and his technical team.

Kaulback takes the flak largely because of his ambitious academy project, from which he drew the bulk of the World Cup side at the expense of seasoned players.

The World Cup is not a stage for experiments or development, and the decision to send into battle a rather youthful and inexperienced outfit horribly backfired for the Cheetahs. However, there are those who view the glass as half-full and have opted to look on the brighter side of things. One of the revelations at the tournament was Godfrey Magaramombe.

The 24-year-old Cheetahs winger was one of two players, together with flyhalf Ryan Musumhi, who made a mark.

Magaramombe finished 11th on the best runs list, while Musumhi finished 10th and 12th on the list of most conversions and offloads.

The former Kyle College student also had two tries, including the first point for Zimbabwe during their 31-7 loss to Canada in the pre-round of 16. For Magaramombe, what is key is the experience and lessons learnt.

“I think, as a team, there were moments that we lapsed and lost focus, and there is a small margin for error in the Sevens game, so coming back from those is always difficult,” he said.

“That was one of the biggest weaknesses we had during the tournament, and one of the areas we need to work on going forward.”

Despite Zimbabwe’s lowly finish, the Old Georgians back found some positives from the whole experience.

“I was blessed to have the opportunity to meet and have a chat with some of the top Sevens’ players in the world at the tournament.

“And, one of the recurring messages I got from these guys was to never give up.”

It is a message he has taken to heart, especially now as the team shrugs off the disappointment of the World Cup and shift attention to their next assignment – the Safari Sevens.

As one of the beneficiaries of the academy side, Magaramombe is not ready to give up on the Cheetahs Academy yet.

In fact, he believes that the next logical step for rugby, and sport as a whole, is to professionalise it.

“In Cape Town, I can’t really say that we did well, as we lost most of our games.

“There were some good individual performances, but, as a team, we did not do very well.

“We are a young team and with a little more time and effort, we will get there,” he said.

“At the World Cup we went up against people who play and train for the sport day-in and day-out, while most of us have to juggle rugby and whatever job we have to put food on the table.

“It makes concentrating on the rugby part difficult and divides one’s attention from the craft.”

Magaramombe is a chemistry major and is currently studying for his bachelor’s degree at the University of Zimbabwe.

To his credit, Kaulback seems to have taken the first steps to rectify this as all the academy side players have been asked to commit to the cause, and have even signed contracts that bind them.

“At the Cheetahs Academy, what we are trying to do is build a team which is characterised by brotherhood, cohesion and team chemistry,” he said.

“This is unlike in previous years where the team would assemble for a week or two before an assignment then go to their separate bases afterwards.It is open to everyone, and it is up to you to stake your claim for the Cheetahs’ jersey and have time with the team.”

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