The Herald (Harare)

31 January 2013

Zimbabwe: Cheetahs Host Rugby Tourney

THE Spar International Sevens Rugby tournament is set to get more glamour and excitement this year following the confirmation by nine foreign teams that include five national teams. Hong Kong, Georgia, Kenya, Zambia and Botswana are the five national teams that have confirmed participation at the two-day tournament set to run between March 9 and 10 at Harare Sports Club.

Other sides that are set to take part in the tournament include South African Sevens Academy, Mpumalanga Pumas, the Bulls and Buffaloes while hosts Cheetahs and Goshawks also come.

The 12th team is yet to be confirmed.

The tournament is in its second edition following the inaugural edition that was also held at the Sports Club cricket pitch last year when the Cheetahs walked away as the overall winners.

Chairman of the committee responsible for the affairs of the Cheetahs and Harare Sports Club chief, Donald "Brasco" Mangenje, yesterday told The Herald that the last team for this tournament will either be Nigeria or Namibia.

"To us, getting such a high number of international teams taking part at our own home grown tournament is another feather in our cap because the growth means that we are doing something right.

"There are nine teams that have confirmed their participation in this two-day tournament and this shows that we are growing and our prayer is that this translates into more corporate sponsorship as well.

"We have made it bigger and (having) 12 international teams is very good for us because we are going to play some of these teams in our quest to becoming the International Rugby Board core member starting in Hong Kong," said Mangenje.

The Cheetahs have a rather tough year ahead of them as they are dreaming of making it as a core IRB Sevens World Series member after failing to make it in the top grade last year and are also expected to perform well at the World Cup.

Their journey to becoming a core member begins in Hong Kong where they are expected to set a good grade for the final qualifying tournament in Europe before travelling to Russia for the World Cup.

And to give them a boost, the Cheetahs committee have given some of the players contracts, diet and training programmes for the next six months but Mangenje feels the Spar tournament will be a good stepping stone for them.

"I would particularly be happy if Namibia make it because they are ranked higher on the rankings compared to Nigeria and also taking into consideration that this will be our first tournament in preparation for our World Cup journey."

However, it is not only these international teams that are going to take part in the tournament, as the local schools have also been given slots to feature in the event in a concurrent tournament.

"This gives the schools rugby players' (the much-needed) exposure because we have about eight schools that will take part in the tournament, giving them the chance to exhibit their talent at such a big stage.

"We are not only looking at traditional rugby-playing schools in the schools category but we also have the likes of Mbare Academy who have become the epitome of development for Zimbabwe rugby.

"All this would not be possible were it not for our title sponsors Spar and Delta Beverages and we hope their support will continue in helping the game grow in Zimbabwe," said the former Sables scrum-half.

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