The Herald (Harare)

5 January 2013

Zimbabwe: Coach Pledges Loyalty

CHEETAHS' coach, Gilbert "Gidza" Nyamutsamba, yesterday said he will be loyal to the players who have stood by the Zimbabwe Sevens rugby side through thick and thin as they prepare for the 2013 World Cup.

The Cheetahs qualified for the Sevens World Cup last year after winning the Africa Cup that also served as the qualifier for the world tournament in Moscow in five months time.

Most of the Cheetahs' players were yesterday expected to sign their contracts for a semi-professional six-month term in preparation for both the World Cup and qualifying as a core World Sevens Series member.

The Cheetahs are expected to begin their preparations next week, and the former Sables and Cheetahs gas man believes it is going to be difficult for more players to break into the contract set-up.

"On my side it is going to be very difficult to include more players into the programme because of the preparations, planning for combinations and complexities of Sevens but I am not closing the door on anyone.

"When a side is going for such a big tournament it is obvious that other players, who have not been in the system, start to draw interest to play for the Cheetahs but I feel that it will be unfair on the part of the players who struggled for the team to be where it is today.

"I guess it is in the best interest of the team to work with those who expressed interest in tough times, when things were not good," said the Bulawayo businessman.

However, Nyamutsamba added that in as much as it would be difficult to include more players, the door remained open for any eligible Zimbabwean player who can meet and impress during the next tournaments.

This means that the players will have to be better than those who featured for the team for them to be considered for a place in the Cheetahs' World Cup squad where only 12 players will travel to Moscow, Russia.

"That is why I had proposed for twenty players whom we will trim down as time goes on and they will be tested at the end of each phase and testing periods will become smaller as we draw closer to the tournament dates.

"We will trim the squad as we go on because after the first stage of the strength and conditioning we will then roll out special programmes for each of the players as individuals working especially in the gym."

To help the Zimbabwe Sevens side prepare for the World Cup, the Cheetahs committee have roped in South African strength and conditioning coach Neil Nesbert who will help Nyamutsamba develop the side.

"We will have to start with the strength and conditioning part, we have engaged South African coach Neil Nesbert to help us in that aspect because most of the sides we play are very serious about that and we have to match them.

"To make sure we keep tabs on the guys and make sure that they are working on the programmes given to the players we will have monthly assessment and analysis sessions for all the players.

"Now, the way we screen or drop the players is such that if a player does not meet the required or expected level of performance, then we leave them out of the squad.

"The way they perform at the Hong Kong Sevens and at the Spar International Seven here at home is also going to have an impact on selection, so we are not taking things lightly."

While Nyamutsamba is based in Bulawayo, most of the players in his side are based in the capital but he feels that distance is not a barrier in preparing the Cheetahs as each of the players has a programme to work on that will be evaluated at a regular basis.

"The fact that I am based in Bulawayo is not going to have any major negative impact on the programme because I will be travelling to Harare on a regular basis.

"The players will not be confined only to the Cheetahs set-up, they have to play as much rugby as they can during this period, be it at the clubs they are currently at or in the universities" added Nyamutsamba.

Foreign based players will also get their individual programmes to follow and, according to Cheetahs chairman and former Sables scrummy, Donald "Brasco" Mangenje, they have set up a schedule to monitor them.

"We, however, have special cases because there are some players that are still in university abroad and we can not control that because obviously we can't stop them from getting education.

"But what we have done is that we will get the players' special programmes, they will have to work on that and will monitor their progress," said Mangenje.

Some of the players that are in university include Tafadzwa Chitokwindo, Njabulo Ndlovu and Jonathan McWade who are all based in South Africa.

This is not the first time the Cheetahs have had to contract players as they did so in 2006.

They contracted 12 players with Fortune Chipendo, Willis Magasa, Tangai Nemadire, Jacques Leitao, Brendan Brider, Tafadzwa Mhende, Wes Mbanje, Slater Ndlovu, Roy Ormerod, Craig Elcombe, Allan Mdehwa and Emmanuel Munyoro getting the contracts.

Chipendo, Nemadire, captain Leitao and Mbanje are some of the players who are expected to get the second bite of the cherry.

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