The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: Cheetahs Fails the Nation

THE Cheetahs performance at the South Africa leg of the International Rugby Board World Sevens Series was a huge embarrassment to the nation. The Zimbabwe Sevens side left Port Elizabeth after winning only one of their six games -- something horrible for a side that has qualified for the World Cup.

Given that the Cheetahs refused to release their top players to the Sables, who are in Dubai for the Four-Nations tournament, the Sevens team were unmasked as a rather selfish franchise within the Zimbabwe Rugby Union hierarchy.

That the Sables are the flagship team of Zimbabwe rugby is not a secret and that there was very little, if anything, at stake for the Cheetahs in Port Elizabeth, is very clear.

The Sables travelled to Dubai with eight new players in their ranks, for a tournament where they are supposed to play three international games that have a bearing on Zimbabwe's ranking on the world rugby standings.

It would have sense if the senior Cheetahs' players had travelled with the Sables to Dubai as they would have offered stability, especially in the back line.

The Cheetahs have been in the IRB tournaments for over six years and they have no meaningful achievement to boast of.

Last week they could not just sacrifice one tournament, by offloading their players to the Sables, for such a worthy national cause.

Now that both teams failed over the weekend, rugby has become the biggest loser.

The Cheetahs have the best remuneration package in national team rugby in Zimbabwe with the players promised six-month semi-professional contracts next year a World Cup show on the cards in Moscow.

But Zimbabwe needs a higher ranking in the world for a better IRB annual grant to help develop the sport.

Zimbabwe's campaign in South Africa ended with a disappointing 33-0 drubbing at the hands of Spain in the Shield final, after beating Scotland 21-14 in the semi-final and that was their only win of the two day event.

All this came after the Cheetahs were first trounced 26-0 by Canada in Pool D of the competition on Saturday in what was perceived as the easiest draw for Zimbabwe at the tournament.

They also lost 17-12 to new core members Portugal and 21-17 to the United States.

In the Bowl quarter-finals, Zimbabwe lost 24-14 to Australia and were relegated to the Shield where they came out empty-handed.

This marked a dark weekend for Zimbabwe rugby as the depleted Sables side had suffered a 7-22 loss at the hands of Hong Kong in their opening match of the Emirates Airline up of Nations in Dubai on Saturday.

The Sables are severely depleted after the Zimbabwe Sevens' management chose not to release key players for the Dubai trip and below are some comments from the rugby fans in Zimbabwe.

Comments

Hickman Marumahoko: If teams like Fiji, Samoa, New Zealand can make so many changes to their already good teams, why can't we do the same? We are not saying get rid of all the players but at least inject some youngsters in there. Surely in a country of 11 million (people) . . . 140 rugby playing schools we can unearth raw talent? We are not saying these guys are not doing their best, they are . . . no doubt about that. But if their best is going to produce the same results as youngsters without experience so why not drop them? At least they youngsters will learn something.

Kudakwaishe Chisepo: The Sevens team lacked the fighting spirit especially in their game against Spain.

They just fell apart. No pace, missed tackles and lack of purpose. The XVs side were a bit inexperienced which I think played heavily against them. We might say we hope for the best but this time we need to make our own luck.

Kwayedza Chi: We are simply saying let's not be blinkered. We lost to an Under-19 Australian side. Was Australia stupid to field their junior team? New Zealand flew in Luke Masirewa, 18 years old, are they crazy? We have over 40 players to pick from, including Under-19s. We beat Scotland. Great! But they had three regular players. So who is preparing well for the World Cup?

For the Sevens we are fooling ourselves if we think we are going to do well during the World Cup. We are definitely going with players who know they have made the cut, players who have lost the zeal but willing to enjoy the benefits of travel.

As for XVs we have three solid years to prepare, we had inexperience and lost our structure against Hong Kong. We have a great chance of doing well if we prepare adequately.

Stan Nhamo: We need to improve, every time we are competing for the shield why not the Cup? If it means the team needs better players for us to win the Cup then let's get moving, this is not good for us at the World Cup next year!

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