Cheetahs out to impress on home soil

Cheetahs players in a huddle during the World Rugby Sevens Challenger Series in Chile four months ago

Zimbabwe rugby sevens team Graham Kaulback says his team will be out to impress on home soil when they line up against other international teams in the second edition of the Zambezi Challenge at the Harare Sports Club this weekend.

The Cheetahs, as the national sevens side is popularly known, are desperate to do well in the second edition of their home tournament after a disappointing campaign during the inaugural event in April.

After being knocked out in the semi-finals by Botswana club Spartans, the Cheetahs had to settle for third position.

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.

Defending champions Spartans are in the field for this year’s tournament along with Germany and Zambia, who are fresh from the Commonwealth Games held in Birmingham early this year.

Zimbabwe is expected to field two senior sides namely the Zambezi Cheetahs, an Academy side, and a High-Performance Under-21 side in an effort to broaden their selection base.

Cheetahs head coach Graham Kaublack with team manager Tafadzwa Mhende (left} and assistant coach Ricky Chirengende (right)

Although a tough challenge awaits Kaulback and his charges in their quest for success at home, he is very optimistic about his team’s chances of winning the Zambezi Challenge trophy for the first time.

“We are definitely going all out to win the trophy, that’s why it’s called the Zambezi Challenge and we are looking forward to that opportunity and to the challenge that this competition will provide,” Kaulback said.

The former Cheetahs player, who took over the coaching reins last year with the aim of building a sevens side dominated by players plying their trade locally said he is expecting a very competitive tournament.

“We are very grateful that it’s going to be a very competitive tournament against Spartans, who are a very good team and Zambia, who finished fourth in Africa at the Africa Cup and Germany are developing a very strong program so it’s going to be a very good challenge for us and we are very excited about it,” he said.

“We always play tournaments to win but our focus is always process driven, so developing the players, developing our systems and giving our players game time and (eventually) the results will take care of themselves.”

The Cheetahs will be captained by Harare Sports Club utility back Taddy “Boxer” Whata following the retirement of regular captain Kudzai Mashawi.

Zimbabwe Rugby Union vice-president Losson Mtongwiza with former Cheetahs captain Kudzai Mashawi

Ahead of the international tournament, the players have been getting some regular game time on the domestic scene with tournaments such as the Paramount Garments Sevens the Engen Sevens and the Sables Summer Sevens Series ensuring the remain active.

Zimbabwe Rugby Union vice-president Losson  Mtongwiza believes the Zambezi Challenge will give the Cheetahs’ technical department the perfect platform to prepare for the Dubai Sevens in December in addition to a packed 2013 schedule.

“Our technical team will use this opportunity to fine tune their team that will be going to Dubai in December. Our 2023 calendar will also be packed as the (World Rugby) Challenger series will have three tournaments over and above our usual Africa Cup and Olympic qualification tournaments so really the momentum needs to start now. Our players are hard at work and have lots to prepare for,” said Mtongwiza.







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