Mehluli Sibanda, Senior Sports Reporter
ZIMBABWE national sevens rugby team coach Gilbert Nyamutsamba has expressed his satisfaction with the 12-men squad chosen for the inaugural two-day Kwese Sports Victoria Falls Sevens which starts at Victoria Falls Primary School today.
The squad, led by South Africa based Hilton Mudariki, has four new faces, these being Wade Petzer, Brian Dube, Nelson Madida and Takudzwa Chiedza.
There is a return for veterans Gardner Nechironga and Scotty Jones who have not donned the Cheetahs jersey for a number of years. Completing the list is Boyd Rouse, Lenience Tambwera, Mkhululi Ndlela, Stephan Hunduza and Lucky Sithole.
“I am happy with the final team selection, they have got a good combination of a few experienced players in the team in Stephan, Lenience and Gardner. I am happy that we have been able to identify a few players and to give them a chance to compete,” said Nyamutsamba.
He conceded that the absence of some of the regulars will affect the way the team will perform but at the same time backed those who have been selected to do the job. Some of the notable absentees for this tournament are Biselele Tshamala, Tafadzwa Chitokwindo, Shayne Makombe, Njabulo Ndlovu and Riaan O’Neill.
“The absence of the more seasoned and senior players is going to affect the way we perform but I am confident that the guys that we are giving a chance and the players we are going to be looking at are going to play their best as they are being given a chance to actually compete for positions,” said Nyamutsamba.
The team travelled to Victoria Falls on Tuesday where the players started fine tuning on Wednesday morning before the final squad was named on Thursday evening. Nyamutsamba depicted the sessions in the resort town as being hard because of the high temperatures. He is however, convinced that the team would have gotten used to the weather when the tournament gets underway. “Our training sessions have been quite challenging, we found Victoria Falls to be very hot and we had to train in hot sun but come game day we would have adjusted and acclimatized but yes it is going to be a difficult tournament but I am sure our main objective of player identification is going to be achieved,” said Nyamutsamba.
Skipper Mudariki said he felt honoured to lead the team in a home tournament with their goal as players being champions come tomorrow. He expressed confidence in the game plan that has been laid out by the coach and were eagerly anticipating the start of the tournament.
“It’s firstly an honour to be given the captaincy for a home tournament and I am looking forward to leading an exciting team. Our goal as players is to win this tournament, it’s a fantastic opportunity for us to see where we are and where we can improve before the World Cup qualifiers. We want to go out and put in a good performance. We are confident in the game plan the coach has set out for us it’s just up to us to go out and execute it. We are really looking forward to this weekend,” said Mudariki.
The Cheetahs have been drawn in Group A where they will play against Namibia, Botswana and Zambia A. Zambia, Goshawks, Botswana A and Zimbabwe President’s VII make up Group B. Zimbabwe are fielding three sides in the eight-team tournament which was necessitated by the withdrawal of Sierra Leone.
Veteran Wesley Mbanje, who had been assisting in passing on his experience to the youngsters has been drafted into the President’s VII as a player.
Cheetahs squad: Hilton Mudariki(captain) Wade Petzer, Takudzwa Chiedza, Lucky Sithole, Nelson Madida, Scotty Jones, Gardner Nechironga, Lenience Tambwera, Stephan Hunduza, Brain Dube, Mkhululi Ndlela, Boyd Rouse.