2 February 2013

Zimbabwe: Nyamutsamba Awaits Spar Challenge

CHEETAHS' coach, Gilbert "Gidza" Nyamutsamba, believes the Spar Zimbabwe Sevens International rugby tournament will be a great platform to evaluate his side ahead of the World Series Hong Kong leg.

The tournament is set to take place at the Harare Sports Club on March 9 and 10 and so far five other national teams have confirmed participation and Nyamutsamba is happy with the quality of opposition they will face.

Hosts Zimbabwe, Hong Kong, Georgia, Kenya, Zambia and Botswana are the six national teams that have confirmed participation while South African Sevens Academy, Mpumalanga Pumas, the Bulls and Buffaloes and Zimbabwe developmental side, the Goshawks, are also in.

One more side is yet to confirm and this could either be Namibia or Nigeria to make it a 12-team competition.

And, among the teams that have shown support for the event, World Series core-member and African giants Kenya, are the highest ranked side as they are currently placed 10th on the latest world Sevens rankings.

The Cheetahs come in as the second best on number 18.

Hong Kong are placed just two places below Zimbabwe, making them the third seeds in the tournament, while Georgia are fourth on position 21st on the world rankings with Zambia and Botswana outside the placements.

Zimbabwe are expected to meet Georgia in the pre-qualifiers set for Hong Kong at the end of next month and if they make it from the pre-qualifiers, will take on Hong Kong in London mid May.

And the former Sables and Cheetahs gas man, Nyamutsamba, feels the growing profile of the Spar Zimbabwe tournament will help him get an idea of what to expect and what areas to work on with his side.

"On paper it looks like it is going to be a tough and strong tournament which is good for us because we have always been looking for more game time especially against tough opposition," said Nyamutsamba.

"It will show us where we stand, where we need to improve and obviously help us in our preparations for all the competitions up to the World Cup this year given we rate all the teams here highly.

"Georgia are pretty much an unknown entity and that is good for us because meeting them before playing against them in Hong Kong is a two-way advantage for us.

"I guess here it will be more of tactics because we are not sure if they are going to show all their cards.

"Hong Kong have a wide pool of players, they have a lot of British players within their set-up and in general it is difficult to ascertain what each of the teams is coming here with in mind.

"Some come to develop and have a look at their fringe players, some come to prepare for the World Cup, other for the core membership pre-qualifiers and so we have just got to focus largely on ourselves and the rest will see at the tournament."

Twelve teams will take part in the Hong Kong pre-qualifier with two teams from each of the IRB's regions.

Tonga and the Cook Islands, representing Oceania, Georgia and Russia represent Europe, Zimbabwe and Tunisia add to the African contingent while Mexico and Jamaica hail from the Americas.

Japan and Chinese Taipei, come in from Asia while the other two slots have been reserved for South America who are set to play their qualifiers at the end of this month.

The top four teams from the pre-qualifiers will join Hong Kong and the three bottom-placed World Series teams after round eight in Glasgow in an eight-team competition at the Marriott London Sevens in May to decide promotion to the 2014 Series.

Promoted sides will join the 16 current core teams that are Argentina, Australia, Canada, England, Fiji, France, Kenya, New Zealand, Portugal, Samoa, Scotland, South Africa, Spain, United States and Wales.

Nyamutsamba, however, added that there is more to how the teams are going to perform at the tournament than the rankings as that does not necessarily translate to success or failure for any of the teams.

"We are not going to take any of the teams for granted be they the South African provincial and academy sides or the national sides that will take part because we are not really looking at the rankings.

"It is not largely about these rankings but it turns out to be how the team performs on the field at the end of the day. Looking for example we have managed to beat Kenya on several occasions over the last few years and it has become more of a fifty-fifty case against them. So it is all about how well we are going to prepare, remember last year Buffaloes came and went all the way to the final but no one had given them a chance at the beginning of the tournament.

"Zambia have been on the rise looking at the way they played at the Africa Cup where they had a huge number of new players to watch in their team but I am not sure about Botswana who we have not played in a long time."

The Cheetahs held their first national training of the year under Nyamutsamba last weekend and he expressed excitement over the physical condition of most of the players at the two-day training session.

"Everything went well it was good to note that the players were well trained and I guess by the time we play the Spar international tournament they would have gained a bar or two of fitness.

"It was my first group training session with the boys and they actually were above what I expected so I guess it's a good start for us, they are taking their programmes seriously and they attended all the sessions," said the Bulawayo businessman.

Prior to the Spar international Sevens, clubs will take part in the Spar Sevens Series that will run for four weekends starting next Saturday.

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