Botswana club Spartans claimed the inaugural edition of the Zambezi Sevens Challenge as hosts Zimbabwe had to settle for bronze after a pulsating day of action at Harare Sports Club on Sunday.
Earlier in the day, the Cheetahs were handed a reality check ahead of the Africa Cup Sevens in Uganda in two weeks’ time when they lost 15-17 in the semi-finals against surprise packages Spartans.
The Gaborone-based club which features a number of Zimbabwean players on their roster went on to be crowned the winners of the regional two-day competition after beating Zambia 26-14 in a rain drenched final.
Zimbabwe’s semi-final defeat meant they had to settle for the bronze medal match against Zambia’s second-string side which they won 17-10 to salvage some lost pride.
Former Zimbabwe youth international and Mbare Rugby Academy product Pride Nyameni was named the Player of the Tournament after an illuminating the competition for Spartans.
Cheetahs head coach Graham Kaulback said although he was disappointed by his team’s failure to win the title on home soil, the competition had given his players the ideal preparations ahead of the Africa Cup Sevens.
“Obviously disappointed with the end result, but we are in a process,” Kaulback told journalists after the conclusion of the tournament.
“Yes, as the national team we do want to win everything but looking at the positive side, we have learnt a lot ahead of our do or die coming Africa Cup. It’s really good to have these preparation tournaments. We are disappointed with end result but confident with the process that we have used,” he said.
Spartans coach Jeremy Babbage was over the moon.
“It’s an amazing feeling I never expected us to win but here we are. We are over the moon right now. My boys were the underdogs prior to this but here we are champions,” he said.
The Zambezi challenge cup was organized by Zimbabwe Rugby Union to give Cheetahs more game time ahead of the Africa Cup Sevens in Uganda, where they will be aiming to qualify for the Sevens Rugby World Cup to be held in Cape Town in September.
Meanwhile, the ever-improving Lady Cheetahs were crowned Zambezi Sevens Challenge winners after beating their rivals Zambia 12- 5 in an entertaining ladies final.
The Derek Chiwara-coached Lady Cheetahs, who are sponsored by Minerva Risk Advisors were also using the home tournament to prepare for the Africa Women’s Sevens to be held in Tunisia.
Lady Cheetahs star Robyn Mhembere was named the Zambezi Sevens Challenge Female Player of the Tournament after impressing throughout the two-day rugby sevens extravaganza.