Cheetahs end Dubai 7s Invitational campaign with Shield title

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Cheetahs players celebrate after winning the Shield title at the Dubai 7s Invitational in the United Arab Emirates last Saturday
Zimbabwe’s national rugby sevens side capped off their campaign at the Dubai 7s Invitational Tournament on a high after edging French side ASM Clermont Auvergne 19-14 to claim the Shield title in the United Arab Emirates on Saturday.

The Shield title was a sweet consolation for the Cheetahs, who were unlucky not to progress to the quarterfinals of the main Cup competition on Friday due to an inferior points difference after finishing level with Ireland Invitational and French side 7 Fantastics.

After dropping to the Bowl Competition, it appeared the Cheetahs were destined to return home with the wooden spoon after a 19-5 loss against Australian side Western Sydney Two Blues in the quarterfinals earlier on Saturday.

The loss meant the Cheetahs were relegated to the Shield competition semi-finals; they salvaged some pride with a 21-7 win against the Japan Sevens Development Squad (SDS).

The victory set up a Shield competition final date against French top tier side ASM Clermont Auvergne, who were also hoping to finish the competition on a high after defeating their compatriots France Militaire 26-7 in the other semi-final.

However in the end it was the Cheetahs who were able to sign off their tour on a high with a morale-boosting victory as they continue their rebuilding mission under their very ambitious technical team — young coaches Graham Kaulback and Ricky Chirengende.

The Cheetahs, who have been working to build a solid high performance sevens programme dominated by locally based players, were using the invitational tournament to prepare for a busy 2023 season.

Zimbabwe are next year expected to compete in the expanded World Rugby Challenger Series which will now provide a route for teams to qualify for the top tier HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series circuit.

According to the changes announced by World Rugby last week teams ranked ninth to 12th on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series after the opening six rounds will join the top-four ranked teams from the Challenger Series in a high stakes relegation play-off competition which will see four teams secure their places in the next edition of the Series.

The four unsuccessful teams will go into regional competitions to qualify for the next Challenger Series, which comprises 12 men’s and 12 women’s teams competing in the second level of international rugby sevens.

 In addition to battling for a place on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series the Cheetahs will also compete in the qualifiers for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.

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