Tadious Manyepo Sports Reporter
CHEETAHS star, Hilton Mudariki, has challenged his teammates to guard against complacency if they are to make it to the podium in the Africa Cup this weekend in Johannesburg, South Africa. The 14-team two-day Sevens rugby tournament kicks-off on Friday and the winners will also pick a ticket to the Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan, next year.
Already swimming in the glory of the Sables’ success in the Victoria Cup, where he was the skipper a month ago, Mudariki says retaining the trophy they won last year will be a dream come true.
He predicted a tough ride in the competition which also has powerhouses Kenya, Madagascar and Namibia participating.
“I am really excited about the opportunity to be involved in the Olympic qualifiers. Obviously, it is going to be a very tough competition,’’ said Mudariki. “There are a lot of good teams at the tournament but we have to come out guns blazing and win the tournament at all costs. “We have a huge pool of good players who are technically sound. Sevens rugby is tough but we need to be cautious at the back and see how we fare.
“We are coming into this tournament fully aware of the stakes which are there. This is not just another Sevens tournament.
“We have to retain the trophy we won last year and that will propel us to the Olympics in 2020. That is every Zimbabwean wish. We are the players and we go into the contest knowing that we are carrying the people’s hopes.”
Mudariki bemoaned shoddy preparations but says the Cheetahs were mentally strong enough to handle the situation.
“The preparations haven’t been up to scratch but then we can’t be crying babies,’’ he said.
“We need to be in this tournament to prove our worth. We are, obviously, the team to beat by virtue of being the defending champions.
“That knowledge may put us under some bit of pressure but I think we have experience in our ranks. “We have outgrown that stage where we stick much into what the opponent will be thinking about us.”
Zimbabwe start their campaign with a relatively easy date against Sevens lightweights Nigeria at Bosman Stadium on Friday.
Uganda, Senegal, Morocco, Botswana, Mauritius, Ghana, Zambia and Cote d’Ivoire are some of the teams expected to present a big challenge to Zimbabwe’s quest to defend their title.