Petros Kausiyo Deputy Sports Editor
ZIMBABWE Rugby Union president Aaron Jani believes the Cheetahs’ poor run at the just-ended Sevens World Cup in San Francisco, United States, has given them some hard lessons on what they need to do for the country to excel in this version of the game.
Jani is in San Francisco and watched each of the Cheetahs’ games at the global showcase where they were eliminated from the main competition following a 33-12 by Wales last Friday night.
Further losses to Uganda, who handed them a 24-10 defeat, and Tonga, who hammered them 25-5, left the Cheetahs with only their 33-21 triumph over Jamaica to show for their efforts at the tournament that was being played under a changed format for the first time.
The ZRU boss acknowledged the gulf between the Cheetahs and the teams they either competed against or watched at the World Cup.
“It was a fantastic tournament in general, an eye-opener for our administration. We have seen how much other teams have progressed and our work is cut out for us.
“We need to inject new blood, focus on nutrition, strength and conditioning and player welfare. The game has become physical and very fast.
‘‘We need a 7s academy where we can keep the players together for 12 months, control what they eat, train them and expose them to more tournaments.
“We really have been left behind in many ways. The good thing is that we now know where we need to be and how to get there,’’ Jani said.
He revealed he had also used his time in the United States to meet with some of his counterparts from other unions and exchange ideas.
“We interacted with all the top Unions and we have learnt a lot,’’ Jani said.
Cheetahs coach Gilbert Nyamutsamba was also in agreement and noted that while the talent was abundant in the country, it was the manner in which it was being nurtured that also needed to change.
“Zimbabwe rugby needs an intense, structured programme that starts from junior level, including basic skills training and strength and conditioning, such that by the time a player is 20 and ready for national duty all the fundamental basics (tackling, passing and conditioning are already taken care of).
“Unfortunately, we are still teaching basics to senior players even at national level by which time it’s almost too late.
‘‘As for Sevens, if we are to compete against the world’s best, the way to go is to set up local sevens academies and to play local sevens tournaments, graduating to regional, then international tournaments,’’ Nyamutsamba said.
The Cheetahs coach also recommended that players should be contracted specifically for the Sevens versions and be exposed to tournaments from an early age.
Nyamutsamba was also happy with the demographic of the team he took with him to the United Staes, which believes can form the bedrock for a stronger return to the World Cup.
“The bulk of this team were players that still have time on their side and this experience gained, if nurtured, will be a very strong team for the next few years,’’ Nyamutsamaba said.