22 December 2012

Zimbabwe: Sevens Destined for Greatness

FOLLOWING a patient rebuilding exercise spanning over three years, national rugby sevens coach Gilbert "Gidza" Nyamutsamba believes 2013 will be the year they will finally turn on the corner.

The Sevens are looking at making an impact on the international stage next year, but their coach has pleaded for patience from their fans.

Nyamutsamba was crowned 2012 Coach of the Year at the Annual National Sportspersons Awards last week and his technical exploits also led to the Cheetahs winning the Team of the Year award.

"I promise that results will come because we have a number of young players in our side and all I am asking for is for some fans to be patient, I know they want results and everyone does.

"But we cannot always be good at every tournament. However, next year we have to be at our peak given that most of our players will be on contracts starting January and we have to make it as a core member and also play well at the World Cup," said the former Sables winger.

In the year the Cheetahs qualified for the World Cup for the second consecutive time after taking part at the 2009 edition of the games in Dubai, Zimbabwe were largely in mixed fortunes.

To show Nyamutsamba's character, the former Cheetahs gas-man was only appointed as coach of the side this year and led his victory in the Africa Cup tournament, which also doubled up as the World Cup qualifier.

However, the Cheetahs started the year on a low note after failing to make it for the International Rugby Board World Series core membership in Hong Kong after losing to Portugal in the semi-final.

In Morocco the Sables managed to pick themselves up, got their act together to win the Africa Cup and qualify for the world stage without losing a game in a qualifier tournament that was held in Rabat.

And two weeks ago, they travelled to South Africa for the Port Elizabeth leg of the Sevens World Series where they beat Scotland in the Shield semi-final in what was their only win of the tournament.

Nyamutsamba reckons that he is able to deliver not only for the Cheetahs but to make sure that the game rises in Zimbabwe.

"Imagine we are an amateur side and we play against professional sides, we play in fewer tournaments but as much as we don't get the result we are able to compete and we mostly have close scores against the likes of Australia.

"It is good that we are able to compete and so we have to take it a step higher now, get our conditioning right and that we have managed to get contracts for the players is going to make a huge difference.

"We are obviously going to face challenges but we have to overcome them because its is not just about the skill level but getting a decent meal, go for practice and gym sessions and follow a set fitness and conditioning programme will help us against the professional sides."

However, Nyamutsamba knows that since taking over from British based coach Liam Middleton this year his greatest achievement was qualifying for the Sevens World Cup set for Moscow, Russia in six months time.

"It was a great honour coming out firstly as the Team of the Year, and of course as Coach of the Year and it was mostly because I have a great and dedicated team of both players and management who share the same vision.

"But believe me this is just to show that it is work in progress we have a big year ahead of us with the core member ship qualifiers before the World Cup as we are also going to take part in the Hong Kong Sevens and our own Spar International Sevens.

"Our target is to play and perform well both the (World Series) qualifiers and at the World Cup. Of course we missed on being a core member this year but we have another big chance in May next year.

"And the reasons I believe that we are going to make it is that we are going to start our preparation early because of the contracts it is actually going to be a five-month preparation for the qualifiers and six for the World Cup.

"And our performance here will have an impact on all versions of the game in Zimbabwe because it will filter up to the XVs (Sables) and we usually go into camp for a few days but I have proposed that we be together for at least two weeks before any major tournament," Nyamutsamba said.

Nyamutsamba feels that he cannot be at his best as coach confined to Zimbabwe and he believes that going for a technical attachment abroad would help him improve his skills as a coach for the betterment of the Cheetahs.

Early this year Sables coach Brandon Dawson and his assistant Cyprian "Supa" Mandenge each got a chance to learn from the experts in South Africa with Dawson travelling to Stellenbosch near Cape Town while Mandenge was at the Sharks.

Nyamutsamba feels a similar move would help not only him but Zimbabwe in getting more competitive on the international stage.

"That is very useful and important. I have discussed the issue with the Cheetahs committee (led by chairman Donald "Brasco" Mangenje), it's at an advanced stage because they also understand the need of such programmes."

And Nyamutsamba feels that the future of the Cheetahs is bright as they have a largely youthful squad and a few players who are edging towards the 30-year-old mark.

"Say we have a squad of 16 players for the World Cup just around five of them in the mould of Fortune Chipendu, captain Jacques Leitao, Daniel Hondo, Wensely Mbanje, Gardner Nechironga might not be around in the next two years.

"Most of the players are quite young and these include the likes of Justin Coles, Jonathan McWade, Tafadzwa Chitokwindo and we have recently roped in Tapiwa Tsomondo who had his first tournament in PE recently.

"There is also the likes of Lucky Sithole, Kilvan Magunje and Japhet Ndebele and though not as young will be able to carry us though."

Nyamutsamba hinted he is going to name his World Cup side soon with the coach having to use the Spar International Sevens, and the Hong Kong tournaments as his biggest test measures.

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