Zimbabwe’s national Sevens Rugby side will have to overcome former champions Wales in an initial knock-out preliminary round to enter the main draw of the 2018 Rugby World Cup Sevens scheduled for July 20-22 at the iconic AT&T Park in in San Francisco, United States.
In what organisers describe as an ‘innovative tournament format’, the Cheetahs will face hosts USA in the final match on day one of action if they can see off the tough challenge of the 2009 World Champions Wales on July 20.
However, defeat for the Gilbert Nyamutsamba-coached side will mean they will instead compete in an eight-team third-tier Bowl competition.
Nyamutsamba, who will now be taking the Cheetahs to their third World Cup, having made his debut in 2009 as assistant coach to Liam Middleton and four years later as head coach told NewZimbabwe.com that he was happy with the outcome of the draw.
“I think it’s a fair draw and will make the completion exciting, it’s a first to play such format and it looks very interesting,” he said.
“I am happy that at least each is guaranteed to play a minimum of three games. Our first game against a highly seeded team Wales is obviously going to be tough, but very welcome because those are the opposition we want to be rubbing shoulders with, even better so at a world event,” he said.
Zimbabwe will be making their third successive appearance Rugby World Cup Sevens and fifth in total having featured at the 1997, 2001, 2009 and 2013 editions of the global tournament.
Nyamutsamba allayed fears that his charges were going to the World Cup just to make up the numbers.
“We are certainly not going to the World Cup to make up the numbers and our previous record speaks volumes of how far we have come as a rugby nation. From our last three appearances we have improved on our final positions with each tournament,” he said recently.
“In our first two World Cup appearances in 1997 and 2001, we finished 22nd and then followed it up with a 17th place finish in 2009. At the last Word Cup in 2013 when I was in charge of the team, we achieved our best ever position after finishing 13th out of 24 countries.
“By no means do we come out 13th at a global event and still be looked at as just adding numbers. We deserve to be there, and we are gonna do all we can to get the team ready so that we fully compete at that big stage.”
The tournament will get underway on day one with Kenya, runners-up in the recent Hong Kong and Vancouver legs of the HSBC World Sevens Series, facing Tonga in the first game of the preliminary round.
Africa’s other representatives Uganda will face off with Samoa in a preliminary round while South Africa who are among the eight top ranked side which automatically qualify for the round of 16 where they wait to face the winner between Ireland and Chile.
The tournament features the men’s and women’s categories.