WITH the Zimbabwe Rugby Union having failed to ensure adequate preparations for them, the Cheetahs will now have to rely on their experience and enthusiasm when they take a crack at the 2018 Africa Cup Sevens tournament in Tunisia at the weekend.
The Cheetahs are expected to fly out to Tunis today ahead of the competition, which starts on Friday in which they are in Pool C together with Mauritius and the hosts.
But more worryingly is the fact that the Cheetahs, runners-up in last year’s competition which also served as the qualifiers for the World Cup, have been hard done by the ZRU with the union as they have not had any preparations worthy of a team fighting for the Africa Cup.
In fact, the Cheetahs have since their return from the World Cup in San Francisco, literally been left in limbo with very little resources being channelled to ensure they would be in prime conditions to resume their continental campaign on a strong footing.
But to their credit the cheetahs seem to have found a way to deal with adversity and coach Gilbert Nyamutsamba yesterday need a travelling party that is laced with youth and experience.
Nyamutsamba has nine of the veterans of the World Cup including German-based star Tafadzwa Chitokwindo, Ngoni Chibuwe, Connor Pritchard, Nelson Madida and Biselele Tshamala available.
The Cheetahs coach admitted yesterday that it would not be easy for his men in Tunisia but insisted they would fight for the honours.
“We are missing some regulars in Rian (O’Neil), Hilton (Mudariki), Shayne (Makombe) and Boyd (Rouse)”.
Nyamutsamba said the enthusiasm being shown by his layer including some new faces who are determined to make an impact in Tunisia had left him with so much hope.
“Missing on the Maseru tournament and not having a full camp obviously has a huge impact and most certainly affected our preparations.
“For a fact we know that Kenya and Uganda got into camp two weeks ago, and the hosts I’m sure have also put in some good time in preparations. The positive that we will carry to Tunisia is the highly motivated young players that are eager to perform and draw some necessary attention and respect.
“I know that come game time these boys will give all they have and hopefully after the tournament still walk out proud having represented the country despite all the challenges during preparations.
“As of today (yesterday) we had 10 players, Mkhululi, is on his way we will link up with Chibuwe that side,” Nyamutsamba said.
Nyamutsamba said although they had what appeared an easy draw, he was a bit wary of the hosts’ potential to spring a surprise.
“Tunisia will be tough in pool games not only because they are at home but they have been on the rise in their rugby. In the last Africa Cup, we drew and only won it in extra time,” said Nyamutsamba.
While the Cheetahs have had problems with their preparations, there are no such challenges in title rivals Kenya’s camp.
The East Africans are heading to Tunisia today confident of winning through from a pool that includes Morocco and Botswana.
“I know technically or physically we may be a bit better than them but of course you have to give it to them they have prepared so we will leave no stones un-turned and give our best.”
“There is more pressure on Uganda as the defending champions. For us we are just happy to be there, we just want to express ourselves we have a lot of new blood coming in, we want to see how they will play how they will respond to that level and hopefully we can get the good result,” said coach Innocent Simiyu.
A number of those set to represent Kenya 7s in Tunisia were selected from the just concluded national sevens circuit with this set to be their first outing.
“They have a lot of excitement you have to understand, it’s their story, for most of them their journey has begun so it’s just doing small things well, going up there, express themselves and building up from there and hopefully get some good results for the team.”
“I think Africa 7s it’s quite good, we have more regional tournaments to help the game grow because for us as Kenya to remain in the top tier we need to be having some good formidable competitions back at home in the region, we are also happy to have this chance to expose our guys at that level.”
Cheetahs Africa Cup team:
Mkululi Ndhlela; Connor Pritchard; Nelson Madida; Kudakwashe Chiwanza; Ngoni Chibuwe; Shingirai Katsvere; Tafadzwa Chitokwindo; Biselele Tshamala; Shingirai Hlanguyo; Tarisai Mugariri; Stephan Hunduza; Takudzwa Kumadiro
Management: Gilbert Nyamutsamba Head Coach
Simba Dangah Team Manager
Amanda Tererai Physiotherapist
Africa Cup Pools
Pool A: Kenya, Morocco, Botswana
Pool B: Uganda, Senegal, Ghana
Pool C: Zimbabwe, Tunisia, Mauritius
Pool D: Madagascar, Namibia, Zambia